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

Surviving the Life

Every woman who has been in the Dignity House jail program stated she has been raped, robbed, kicked and beaten with fists, knives, guns, coat hangers, baseball bats, and boards – either by a trick or her pimp. Each girl knew someone who had been murdered while working in prostitution.  The average lifespan of a woman in the sex industry is 7 years.  And the mortality rate of female prostitutes is 40 times higher than the average American women.

The sex industry is not glamorous.  It does not bring fame and fortune to those who enter.

Sex Trafficking in Portland: A Violent World

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After-Care, Awareness

Awareness for Health Care Workers

Victims of human trafficking often experience noticeable physical abuse.  Because trafficking victims are viewed as their captor’s property, most traffickers are extremely skilled in how to carry out the most painful abuse while leaving the smallest amount of evidence (which is also partly why many prefer psychological and financial abuse over extreme physical abuse), because damaging their “product” is bad for business.  Being aware of the signs of physical abuse is imperative for health care providers, however they must also be aware of the emotional bruises victims wear.

Human Trafficking and Health Care Worker Awareness

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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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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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