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

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

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Awareness

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.

Pastor Preaches Gospel to Prostitutes in Hotel Rooms

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Prevention

The Economics of Sex Trafficking

Our society is currently in the middle of a major shift in perspective – as awareness to the issue of sex trafficking grows, we are learning that the women painted previously as the greedy villains in a dastardly plot to destroy the family unit, are truthfully victims in a horrifying reality that they only wish were simply a theatrical performance rather than their life.  With community groups, law enforcement and individuals learning more about what fuels the sex economy, many suggestions have arisen to reduce and potentially end domestic sex trafficking.  As we decriminalize the role of the prostitute, law enforcement and the legal system have pushed hard to increase punishments for pimps and traffickers, as well as the customers purchasing our women and girls.  While making the consequences far more serious for those who sell and purchase our women, our strongest, most effective effort as a community will always be PREVENTION.  We must understand what factors come into play to cause a woman to feel the need to prostitute herself under the control of a trafficker.  We must understand what our culture says about what being a man looks like, about how we objectify our women, and how a person defines their personal worth and success.  And lastly, we must look at building healthy relationships within marriages and families.  If all we continue to do is deal with the outcome of a decaying moral compass, we will only continue to put a bandaid on a horrible societal wound.  We MUST treat the root causes of sex trafficking if we ever expect to see an increase in the long-term health of our community.

Busting Sex Workers’ Clients Increases Demand

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