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

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.

Sex-Trafficking Gangs Used “Grotesque Version of Legitimate Business Model” Busted by Feds

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After-Care, Awareness, Prevention

Transcript: 20th Annual MLK Day Celebration & March Speech at the UCCC 2015

When I was first asked to speak today, I was honored to have the opportunity. But I am also incredibly intimidated to be in a line-up of amazingly talented and accomplished women, including the nationally recognized Dr. Jones-DeWeever. I thought “Who am I to speak on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day? Who am I to speak on issues that affect minority groups? Who am I?” As I sat, overwhelmed by how to best approach the topic, my eyes drifted to a quote above my desk by Marianne Williamson, and I realized “Who am I NOT to be?” It was then that I remembered that my playing small most certainly does not serve the world! After all, how can I help Free Our Girls by remaining silent? My silence, caused by my fear of scrutiny will not bring freedom to those who need it.

So it is with that realization that I stand before you today to speak on an issue that is affecting our community, and that is the issue of human trafficking. Human trafficking is defined as “criminal activity in which human beings are used as possessions to be controlled and exploited.” Domestic human trafficking can, and does sometimes involve the smuggling of victims across international borders, but 72% of our victims are US citizens. Human trafficking includes domestic servitude and forced labor, but up to 80% of human trafficking in the United States falls into the category of sexual exploitation. Oftentimes we think “this doesn’t happen here, this won’t happen to anyone I know,” yet we fail to understand that this exploitation can happen through force, as well as fraud or coercion, and that 70% of victims were initially targeted through social media. The Human Trafficking Reporting System finds that approximately 21% of victims rescued are Hispanic, and that another 35% are African American. And while it is essential to identify at-risk groups within our society so that we can develop effective prevention methods, it is also just as important to understand that ultimately, predators see only one color: GREEN.

Human trafficking affects women of every race, every education level, and every economic status. It is an issue that can be found in large, metropolitan areas, and it can be found here in our rural community. Where ever there is a lack of awareness, there is a risk of exploitation. This exploitation is a violation of civil and human rights. It is an injustice that repeatedly carried out on our women, and at times encouraged and socialized through video games, media, and culture. And as Dr. King himself said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This issue is my heart, because I myself am a survivor. For years, I was terrified to speak on what I had endured at the hands of my captors, but then I started to see the signs in my hometown, and I remembered that there are others out there, still held in slavery. I refuse to remain silent about human trafficking because I have witnessed firsthand the damage it can cause. I refuse to allow this to continue to happen to other women and children. These are our women – our wives, our sisters, our friends. These are our children – our daughters, our students – OUR GIRLS. It is time to Free Our Girls.

In closing, as we reflect on the life of Dr. King, I would like to leave you with the quote for today’s celebration and march:

“Our lives begin to end the day the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Today is the day to start speaking out. Thank you.

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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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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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Awareness

“There are three possible outcomes for victims: they escape, they’re rescued, or they die.”

Understanding the issue of sex trafficking is no less complex than knowing how to help the victims of this horrific crime once they are identified.  Because this culture operates within the guidelines of its own creation, a majority of those being victimized do not recognize or identify as being victims of human trafficking.  Due to a lack of both awareness and resources, many victims are never even given the opportunity to seek the truth about their situation, much less find help getting out.  As a result, very few ever receive the help they so desperately need once they extricate themselves, and a larger percentage simply never find freedom.

This must change.  This will change.  Our Girls will find Freedom.

December 29th, 2014 – Human Trafficking: How Someone Becomes a Victim

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