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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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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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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After-Care

From victim to advocate.

While every sex trafficking survivor’s healing process is a very personal and unique journey, many are finding freedom and transformation in being able to speak about what they experienced, and to advocate for others still trapped in terrifying situations.  The women under the control of a pimp experience extreme verbal and psychological abuse.  Due to isolation, they often are broken down to the point that they start to believe the lies they are told by their abuser, and these lies amount to one enormous belief:  NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU.  When a person is stripped of their freedom – their dignity, their body, their choice – they come to accept that everyone they come into contact with is there to use and exploit them.  A major part of healing from the abuse and victimization is for a woman to learn that she is loved – she is valued – JUST AS SHE IS.  And part of empowering women and helping them move through this healing process is giving them the opportunity to speak out – to share their story, to support others in similar situations – to let them know that they have a voice and that people want to hear it.

Teen Who Turned in Pimp Adapts to “Normal” Life

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