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: 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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Prevention

A detailed look at the current state of the sex industry and the trafficking within.

With the advent of the internet, the sex industry changed for all of history – sellers are able to reach wider markets at unbelievable speeds, and with considerable discretion.  As awareness grows to the issue of sex trafficking within the adult industry, law enforcement and activist groups are also able to locate criminals much more quickly than before.  While the articles about the study released in 2014 by the Urban Institute focus primarily on the numerical statistics related to the industry presently, little is discussed about the risk factors and contributing statistics that create potential victims.  Many of the “solutions” presented as a result of the extensive study focus on how better to respond to the issue currently at hand, however nothing is suggested as to how to prevent our women and children from becoming victims in the first place.  It does not matter how well-connected interstate government agencies are, or how strict internet laws become – the issue of sex trafficking will continue to exist until we focus on what is causing it in the first place.

America’s Sex Economy is Larger Than You Think

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