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: Tattoos and Branding

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 whose social media pages were observed in this Free Our Girls study, 66% had visible tattoos in their photos.  Because many tattoos are hidden by hair styles, jewelry and clothing, it is believed that many more have tattoos than were observed purely off the photos that were posted.

What does this tell us about women in the commercial sex industry?  First of all, that similar to drug and alcohol use, tattoos are a widely accepted part of this culture.  The tattoos observed fell into a few main categories including: phrases and quotes, names, and symbols.  The phrases and quotes were often motivational in nature and sometimes included religious references such as “only God can judge me.”  The women who displayed tattoos with names were most often the name of their pimp, but also included a family member or child’s name.  The most common symbol featured in tattoos observed was a crown, often with their pimp’s name or initials.  A tattoo symbol that is increasing in popularity is the “hashtag” (#) symbol, followed by a word or acronym indicating their membership within this sub culture.  Tattoos were featured on almost every body part, including the face, with the most common being on the lower back/buttocks, the pelvic region, neck and throat, and wrist.

Not only are tattoos in general accepted within this subculture, but they are often expected, respected and demanded.  Branding a woman’s body with his name marks a trafficker’s property.  Many woman have been branded over time by multiple traffickers as they are re-exploited again and again.  A common theme among these women is, after getting away from their abuser, is to get the tattooed name covered up.  Cover-up work was a common theme observed on many of these women’s pages, and is a need from our community for women leaving commercial sexual exploitation to help them move on from the constant reminder of the abuse and exploitation that they endured at the hands of this person.

The most common tattoos observed were crowns and initials. A new popular tattoo includes the

The most common tattoos observed were crowns and initials. A new popular tattoo includes the “hashtag” (#) symbol followed by an acronym relating to prostitution and the pimp culture.

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Awareness

#BeTheKey: Pimps and Traffickers

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.

We found that 62% of women publicly and openly confirmed, through photos and specific language, that they were currently working under the control of a pimp.  Of the women that did not confirm to currently being under the control of a pimp, a majority referenced at some point through their social media posts that they had had a pimp at one time or another during their time in the commercial sex industry.

What can this tell us about women involved in commercial sex work?  One national study claims that approximately 90% of prostituted women have a pimp.  Our small observational study on social media indicates that this is more than likely a fairly accurate estimate.  The women who confirmed having pimps have been completely indoctrinated into this subculture, and much of their posts and conversations comply with the “Rules of the Game” which include not interacting with pimps besides their own, and only socializing with the intention of recruiting more women to work for their pimp.  Those who shared photos of their pimps often include captions claiming their loyalty and devotion to this person.

Also interesting to note was the fact that four women are under the control of pimps who are currently in jail, two of them serving sentences longer than 2 years.  This further illustrates the emotional and psychological chains, trauma bonding, and brain washing that occurs during the grooming process.  And while 99% of the pimps pictured on these women’s pages were black males, there was 1 white male, and 1 Hispanic female that fill the role as pimp to some of these young women.

Lastly, it is important to remember that once again, this was a purely observational study, meaning that many more women in our sample group could possibly be currently under the control of a pimp but chose not to share this information publicly.  Two possible reasons why women chose not to picture their exploiter include the fact that they understand the legal repercussions of implicating them in this way, and for those women who use their social media accounts to advertise their services, indicating to potential clients that they work for a pimp can drive business away.

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Once a young woman has been recruited and groomed, she will eventually become completed indoctrinated into the subculture of violence and exploitation. Oftentimes, the attention and care they receive from their traffickers is the safest and most stable situation they have ever known, making it hard for them to see a better world beyond their current reality.

Once a young woman has been recruited and groomed, she will eventually become completed indoctrinated into the subculture of violence and exploitation. Oftentimes, the attention and care they receive from their traffickers is the safest and most stable situation they have ever known, making it hard for them to see a better world beyond their current reality.

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