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: 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: 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: 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

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

Understanding the Role of the “Bottom”

A pimp’s bottom is the girl he has put in charge of many responsibilities in the management of the other women under his control, from recruiting to training, to playing friend and counselor.  She has “earned” this title and role by being under his control the longest, by having the best behavior, and being his top earner.  This status is respected within the pimp culture, and it is often fought for amongst the women, with the belief that it will earn them additional love and respect from their abuser.  What it often means is that she will take the fall for the pimp should he be arrested, and she is expected to defend him in court, put money on his books and pay his lawyer, and report back to him on what is going on while he is detained.  She must raise any children they may have together on her own.  And while from the outside, the bottom often appears to be just as nasty and vicious as the pimp she works for, she is a victim nonetheless.  She has experienced the most abuse and degradation, been exploited the longest, and often has proven to be grateful for the least.  She is under her pimp’s complete control, and her loyalty is not swayed, even in the face of life sentences – her belief that her pimp is in the right remains firm.

Pimp Accused of Sex Trafficking Gets 37 Years

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