Awareness

#BeTheKey: You Can Start Unlocking Cages

Thank you for taking part in our August #BeTheKey campaign, aimed at bringing further awareness to the issue of domestic sex trafficking by sharing the findings of the Free Our Girls 2015 Observational Study of Social Media Accounts.  Again, this study included over 300 women currently involved in the sex industry, with a majority of them actively being exploited by a trafficker or pimp.  Our goal was to help shed further light on this population so that our advocates against sexual exploitation can take this information with them as they move forward in their lives to combat this issue within their communities and circles of impact.

Sex trafficking affects every community, and anyone with a void or vulnerability is at-risk for exploitation.  As long as we continue to think that sex trafficking happens “somewhere else” it will continue to happen in our schools and neighborhoods, and to Our Girls.

In a report recently published by the University of Southern California, recommended future actions for preventing and responding to human trafficking that occurs online and through social media include:

  • Allocating resources for further research related to sex trafficking in domestic contexts
  • Enabling local agencies to develop technological capabilities to monitor trafficking online and to share information among organizations
  • Creating more innovative solutions for detecting and disrupting human trafficking online and assuming a more proactive role in advancing research in this area
  • Using technology to connect with and empower victims and vulnerable populations, while also addressing their economic, social, psychological, and physical needs
  • Improving the collection of data on trafficking and the sharing of information resources

Free Our Girls plans to continue our personalized engagement with the women we are connected with through social media, in the hopes of (1) building relationships based on trust, love and acceptance, (2) planting seeds to challenge their often skewed concepts of reality, and (3) being available and ready to provide the resources, information and help these women need to decrease their vulnerability and increase their stability to the point that they are able to leave both their trafficker and the commercial sex industry for good.

If you are interested in partnering with Free Our Girls in a tangible way, please consider supporting our organization as we continue our work in online communities with women currently in the sex industry.  At this point in time, we currently provide (1) positive words of encouragement – no strings attached!, (2) thought-provoking conversational material designed to challenge current thought patterns, and (3) periodic newsletters on topics of interest including finances, legal issues, children, healthy relationships and many more.  Free Our Girls would like to not only improve our existing online engagement program, but expand it to include a website with additional information and resources.  You can visit our website here to begin supporting this vital and successful program today!

#BeTheKey

#BeTheKey

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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: Being a Mother

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.

At least 40% of the women that Free Our Girls networks with have children.  With 64% of those having just one child, 20% having two children, and 9 women are currently pregnant, these women are not only responsible for themselves, but a family as well.

What can this tell us about women involved in commercial sex work?  That motherhood makes women incredibly vulnerable, both emotionally and financially, to being exploited due to their need to provide for their children, and the hope of giving them a better life than they would otherwise have been able to offer.  Some of these women had children prior to entering the sex industry, and some have since had children with their trafficker, as this is often one method a trafficker uses to keep his victim under his control.  For this population of women, leaving sex work can be even more difficult as they do not just have themselves to support.  If a woman has had a child with her trafficker, her emotional connection with the father of her child only increases the number of obstacles she must overcome to truly be freed.

Additionally, it is important to note that not all women chose to share the fact that they have children on their social media profiles.  They may do this for a number of reasons, but two of the most common reasons are (1) not wanting to share this personal and intimate part of their world with unknown viewers, and (2) not having custody of their children and therefore limited interactions with them.  For these reasons, it is believed that the actual percentage of women in the sex industry with children is even larger than what was observed in our study.

Having children increases the emotional and financial vulnerability of thousands of young women currently engaged in sex work. This lifestyle affects not only the women, but their children as well.

Having children increases the emotional and financial vulnerability of thousands of young women currently engaged in sex work. This lifestyle affects not only the women, but their children as well.

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Awareness

August: #BeTheKey Campaign

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.

The adult entertainment industry is often the first to integrate new technologies and communication methods.  This, coupled with the knowledge that a majority of commercial sexual transactions are advertised and and arranged for online, and a growing percentage of trafficking victims are first approached by their trafficker online, it is imperative that we understand the importance of having advocates for victims and resources for survivors online as well.

As one of the many programs Free Our Girls has been developing, over the last three years we have been building and maintaining relationships with over 300 women currently working in the sex industry using social media platforms to engage them.  In July of this year, Free Our Girls carried out a study of these women to gain a deeper understanding of the population as a whole, with the desire to further focus our interactions and outreach with these women.  As this was a purely observational study, the data gathered was based exclusively on the information these women choose to share on their social media profile, including their posts, captions and conversations.

Over the month of August, Free Our Girls will be sharing the findings of our study with you to help further understand the demographics of those currently facing commercial sexual exploitation, so that we can better engage the women we aim to serve.  Follow our #BeTheKey campaign here on our blog, as well as our Facebook page, as we provide powerful information that can help you become an educated and compassionate advocate.

#BeTheKey

#BeTheKey

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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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After-Care

Giving Victims a New Foundation

Safe houses and transitional homes are popping up all over the US, some for minors, others for adults, and even one for men and boys exploited through sex trafficking.  This is one of a wide variety of resources needed for helping victims leave their situation and find the help and support they need to heal and start building their new life.  While many initially wondered if these houses would actually find victims to fill their beds, that has not been an issue in any of the houses across the US.  Unfortunately, in the last six months, two of these houses have shut down due to a lack of funding.  The number of beds available across the US specifically for victims of sex trafficking is depressingly few – less than a couple hundred total (consider 100,000+ children are at risk each year of falling victim, and there are currently 1 million adult female prostitutes in the US that studies suggest up to 90% of them have pimps).

General safe homes, transitional houses, homeless shelters and other such residential facilities have opened their doors to include survivors of sex trafficking, which is better than nothing.  However, women coming out of a sex trafficking situation experience PTSD at the same rates as soldiers coming home from war zones, and it takes the average woman a minimum of two years to completely extricate herself and find enough therapy and resources to permanently escape her situation.  Most residential facilities are not designed to shelter women and children for this length of time, which is why homes specifically for sex trafficking survivors are a crucial part of the resource network for them.  And while the costs involved in long-term housing and care for a survivor can be anywhere from $25,000 and up, that fresh start for that individual is priceless.

Boston Safe House for Sex Traffic Victims to Shut Down

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