Awareness

#BeTheKey: Of Additional Interest

This information was gathered from our survey of 300 prostituted women through our social network outreach program.  Every couple days over the month of August, we are adding a new stat from our findings to help you better understand the women we are working with.  Read the whole series right here on the Free Our Girls blog.

After identifying specific categories under which Free Our Girls planned to observe various information shared on social media by the women currently involved in the commercial sex industry, we also observed a number of interesting facts that did not fall into any pre-defined categories, but we found worth acknowledging.

  • 1 survivor of the “Craigslist killer”
  • 1 transgendered
  • 4 openly talk about being recruited under the age of 18
  • 1 military veteran
  • 2 openly talk about having been married and divorced previous to their initial recruitment
  • 1 has just started running an escort service as her way out of performing services herself
  • 1 is a confirmed recovering drug addict, whose pimp was the one who “saved” her and helped her get clean
  • 16 have left the sex industry within the last 3 years, yet remain connected through social media to the life and people they once surrounded themselves with

What can this information tell us about the women vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation?  That vulnerabilities exist in a wide array of lifestyles and backgrounds.  That oftentimes the abuse and exploitation these women currently experience at the hands of their trafficker is STILL a better life than the one they came from.  And that the psychological conditioning and emotional bonds built with others while a part of this life are not easily broken, even years after walking away from taking an active part in it.

Grooming refers to the process of identifying the potential to exploit an individual, and making oneself a person of authority and trust within the potential victim's life. Once that step has been accomplished, it is easy for a trafficker to manipulate their victim into believing their lies, and learning to follow an order of expectations. Because the psychological manipulation is often incredibly severe, many women who experience this process find themselves brainwashed (Stockholm's syndrome), as they then accept this way of life as one that they chose for themselves.

Grooming refers to the process of identifying the potential to exploit an individual, and making oneself a person of authority and trust within the potential victim’s life. Once that step has been accomplished, it is easy for a trafficker to manipulate their victim into believing their lies, and learning to follow an order of expectations. Because the psychological manipulation is often incredibly severe, many women who experience this process find themselves brainwashed (Stockholm’s syndrome), as they then accept this way of life as one that they chose for themselves.

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Awareness

#BeTheKey: Organized Criminal Operations

This information was gathered from our survey of 300 prostituted women through our social network outreach program.  Every couple days over the month of August, we are adding a new stat from our findings to help you better understand the women we are working with.  Read the whole series right here on the Free Our Girls blog.

In the Free Our Girls’ social media observational study, three large-scale trafficking operations were became immediately evident.  These organized trafficking operations involved five or more women under the trafficker’s control at any given time, and were based out of Nevada, Miami and Houston.

What does this tell us about women experiencing commercial sexual exploitation?  That many of these women’s only sense of family and community comes from the other women under the control of the same man.  It also further illustrates the degree of manipulation many of these predators are capable of exerting, in addition to the fact that many of these women live lives drastically different from what would be considered “normal,” making their ability to transition out of it and back into mainstream society more difficult due to blurred and alternative relationship lines.

A measure of honor and prestige amongst traffickers is when they are able to manage a “stable” of four or more women, and due to the emotional, psychological, physical and financial dynamics required to exert control over this many women at any given time, it is often rare to observe.  The women living in these three identified households are often sent across the country, to sell their bodies.  The level of mental control these traffickers have over their women ensure that these women will work “on auto,” meaning that their trafficker’s physical presence is not required for these women to feel compelled to comply to his every demand.

Additionally worth noting, two of these three large-scale trafficking operations included a legitimate, professional business front, including a rap musician career and clothing line.  The women in these operations are expected to take part in helping further their trafficker’s legitimate brand through public appearances and modeling.  These activities also help attract and recruit new potential victims, as they see the promise at success, stability and a sense of family.

Because a lot of traffickers masquerade as boyfriends, it is most commonly seen for them to have only 1-2 women under their control at any given time. However, for more experienced and manipulative pimps, it is considered a measure of prestige to be able to control four or more women, typically using psychological and emotional abuse over physical.

Because a lot of traffickers masquerade as boyfriends, it is most commonly seen for them to have only 1-2 women under their control at any given time. However, for more experienced and manipulative pimps, it is considered a measure of prestige to be able to control four or more women, typically using psychological and emotional abuse over physical.

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Awareness

#BeTheKey: Location of Exploitation

This information was gathered from our survey of 300 prostituted women through our social network outreach program.  Every couple days over the month of August, we are adding a new stat from our findings to help you better understand the women we are working with.  Read the whole series right here on the Free Our Girls blog.

With Free Our Girls being a US-based non-profit, our contact with women currently in commercial sex work focuses on those women here in the US.  Our observational study revealed that our women live in at least 21 states, with concentrations in California, Nevada, Texas, and Florida.

What does this tell us about women currently being exploited here in the US?  It shows that sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation occurs nationwide, and has the potential to impact every community.

Only about half of the women studied confirmed their current state of residence.  This was for two reasons.  First of all, many women lead a life of secrecy, and maintaining a certain level of anonymity in public forums such as social media sites is necessary for their general safety.  Secondly, many of these women do not have a permanent place to call home – they live hotel-to-hotel and are moved around the country constantly.

Another interesting face observed regarding these women’s locations is that many grew up in small towns in the Midwest before being being lured into the grasp of their trafficker.  Understanding that young women growing up in rural areas protected from “big city problems” are just as at risk as those coming from developed, urban areas is vital to protecting our girls.

Many young women live in the same hotel rooms that they work out of.

Many young women live in the same hotel rooms that they work out of.

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Awareness

#BeTheKey: The Age of Exploitation

This information was gathered from our survey of 300 prostituted women through our social network outreach program.  Every couple days over the month of August, we are adding a new stat from our findings to help you better understand the women we are working with.  Read the whole series right here on the Free Our Girls blog.

Of the women observed in Free Our Girls’ social media study, 71% were between the ages of 18 and 29.  Approximately 28% were in their 30’s.  And only 1 woman was in her 40’s.

What does this tell us about the women currently facing exploitation?  First of all, Free Our Girls does NOT include any person who appear to be under the age of 18 in their social media outreach.  Any person who appears to be, or confirms through their posts, to be under the age of 18 and involved in commercial sex work is immediately reported to law enforcement.  For this reason, any social media accounts that appear to be/are under the age of 18 were not included in our study.  To date, over the last three years, two such accounts have been identified and reported.

Understanding the age demographics of this group of women is important because we see when our women are most commonly involved in commercial sex work, and therefore most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by traffickers.  Not only are young women in higher demand from paying clientele, but they are also more often to be naive, emotionally vulnerable and financially unstable as they strike out into the world on their own.

As women involved in the adult industry enter their 30’s, and even 40’s, they start looking to get away from this lifestyle, however they often find their legitimate work options severely lacking for reasons including: lack of work history and formal education (and the low wages that come with jobs they then quality for), addiction, housing instability, need for childcare, and reliable transportation.  In addition to these physical needs in order to be able to leave the sex industry, many women also face reintegration difficulties due to years of unpredictable environments, complex trauma and emotional damage, and having to cope in a world they have been socialized to stay detached from.

Many women desperately want to leave commercial sex work, however their desire to leave does not always necessarily line up with the ability to maintain the stability in their life to make a successful exit.

Most social media and adult entertainment sites have age warnings and restrictions, aimed at preventing minors from accessing adult content. However, posts like this one tell a much different story.

Most social media and adult entertainment sites have age warnings and restrictions, aimed at preventing minors from accessing adult content. However, posts like this one tell a much different story.

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Awareness

When Secrets Take Lives

The sex industry is viewed as taboo by the general public, and an unfair amount of judgement, stigma, and stereotypes contribute to the negative reaction most people give when they learn a woman is involved in the sex industry.  As a result, a majority of women in the industry hide their chosen work from their friends and family, and unfortunately someone who recognizes their fear of exposure can hold this over their head.  The risk of being outed comes with substantial consequences for women – general fear of rejection and disgust, loss of their legitimate employment, or being terrified of losing custody of their children all rank high as legitimate concerns if exposed.  Many of these women move away from their family, keep their friends at a distance, and create an alternate reality to tell inquisitive people about what they do for work.  It is only with increased awareness and education about the sex industry as a whole – what forces motivate or drive a woman into it, that we will see these women as unique and beautiful individuals with every right for a happy and fulfilling life.

Model Plunges to Her Death After Her Ex Boyfriend Exposes Her Secret Life As a Prostitute

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Prevention

The Internet’s Role in Sex Trafficking

Craigslist was the first major site to come under fire for their postings for adult entertainment and alleged prostitution, and they quickly folded, closing down the section of their site that allowed for escorts and other adult industry workers to advertise for their services.  Since then, Backpage has been the focus in the media as being partially to blame for the sex trafficking of minors here in the US.  In the summer of 2014, Redbook, a west coast advertising site was seized by the Feds and shut down.  However, Backpage has remained firm in their refusal to close its doors – and why wouldn’t they at least go down without a fight? – from 2012 to 2013, Backpage made 80% of the $45 million in revenue of the top 12 websites that carry adult advertising.

While the Internet has certainly made being anonymous much easier in many ways, and given predators access to potential victims on a worldwide scale, it has also made finding these criminals easier in many ways as well.  With the advent of social media, police are not required to obtain search warrants to browse traffickers’ personal pages, which often offer all the evidence of their crimes needed to build a solid case against them.  And sites like Backpage cooperate willingly with law enforcement, respond quickly to subpoenas, and have added additional security measures to their posting process.

When it comes to sex traffickers, this may be one area where Big Brother can provide some sort of justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

How the Department of Defense is Using Big Data to Combat Sex Trafficking

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Awareness

The business side of the underworld of sex trafficking.

It is often thought that criminals are of lower-intelligence than the general members of our society.  However, ask any law enforcement officer, therapist, or sex trafficking survivor, and you will soon learn that most of these people have average or above average intelligence.  The underworld of sex trafficking operates with its own set of rules and regulations, and while they can be vastly different in appearance and effect than traditional corporate business models, there is absolutely a general structure of authority, a code of conduct, and a method for determining rewards for compliance and consequences for disobedience.  Never underestimate the drive that greed creates in the quest for money and fame, it is a slippery slope of deceit and selfishness.

Sex-Trafficking Gangs Used “Grotesque Version of Legitimate Business Model” Busted by Feds

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