The Secrecy of Sex Trafficking

Many of the sensationalized stories in the media cover horrendous stories of kidnap, abuse, and exploitation.  While these extremes absolutely do occur in the world of human trafficking, many victims go unnoticed, even by their own family, because the deception and secrecy run so deep.  What may appear to be a young girl going through some adolescent rebellion, may actually be a girl on a slippery downhill slope into the destructive world of sex trafficking.  What may seem like tumultuous young love may actually be the signs of a predator in the early manipulation stages.

It is only through community awareness programs that we can fully understand the complexity of the issue of human trafficking, and recognize the warning signs coming from a potential victim.

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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.

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Surviving the Life

Every woman who has been in the Dignity House jail program stated she has been raped, robbed, kicked and beaten with fists, knives, guns, coat hangers, baseball bats, and boards – either by a trick or her pimp. Each girl knew someone who had been murdered while working in prostitution.  The average lifespan of a woman in the sex industry is 7 years.  And the mortality rate of female prostitutes is 40 times higher than the average American women.

The sex industry is not glamorous.  It does not bring fame and fortune to those who enter.

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After-Care, Awareness

Awareness for Health Care Workers

Victims of human trafficking often experience noticeable physical abuse.  Because trafficking victims are viewed as their captor’s property, most traffickers are extremely skilled in how to carry out the most painful abuse while leaving the smallest amount of evidence (which is also partly why many prefer psychological and financial abuse over extreme physical abuse), because damaging their “product” is bad for business.  Being aware of the signs of physical abuse is imperative for health care providers, however they must also be aware of the emotional bruises victims wear.

Human Trafficking and Health Care Worker Awareness


How Someone Becomes a Victim of Trafficking

There are so many misconceptions about how a person ends up being trafficked and sexually exploited.  While there are the extreme cases that involve being kidnapped, drugged, and physically restrained, more often than not, that is not what actually happens.  A majority of victims find themselves in a situation that quickly spirals out of control, and they are at the mercy of someone they believed they could trust.  Human trafficking can, and does happen by force.  But it also regularly involves fraud – such as promising a better life, unconditional love, or fame.  And it can also involve coercion, which involves threats to the victim’s children or family members, and blackmail – convincing a victim that they will lose everything if their friends and family discover what they are actually doing.  The physical abuse, combined with both financial and psychological abuse is a tragically crippling combination.

Human Trafficking: How Someone Becomes a Victim


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.

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When good intentions hurt.

Those aware of the issue of domestic sex trafficking are sympathetic to the cause, and a majority of people want to take action, and usually in a way that utilizes their own unique skill set, resources, and network.  Unfortunately even the best of intentions can often end up being very damaging to the very person they set out to help.  Women under the control of a pimp are often under an incredible amount of stress due to the fear of abuse, and the carrying out of threats to harm their loved ones.  Interfering in a trafficking victim’s work can often mean she is not able to check in with her trafficker, is not able to meet her quota, or otherwise not comply with the expectations demanded by her abuser.  And unfortunately, a pimp is not sympathetic when it comes to reasons, or “excuses” as to why she has not performed as expected.  The consequences then fall back on the victim’s head, often literally.

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