Part of the Sex-Trafficking: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Child Series
Amy first saw Eric outside of school one afternoon after band practice. He smiled at her, but she had always been warned not to talk to strangers. He offered her a ride home — she refused. He asked her for directions — she refused. Then, he started to cry softly — that broke her heart.
Amy listened to him talk about how devastated he was about breaking up with his fiancée, and he seemed very grateful that she listened.
The next day, he was there after school waiting for her again. He was there the next day, and every day after that for weeks. Over time, they became friends, growing closer until one afternoon when he told her he loved her. He was the first guy to say those words to Amy and it was thrilling! She realized that she loved him too, and they made plans to be together. Her mother was suspicious of the amount of time she spent out of the house after school, but Amy’s lies kept her mom at bay. If she and Eric were to be together, they would have to move fast. Eric had everything a girl could want: Money, stability, good looks, and he loved her. They were going to build a wonderful life together. When she got into the car with him the last time outside of her school, she was 14 years-old.
She would be 20 the next time she saw her family — after six years of sexual slavery.
The Sex Slave
No girl dreams of growing up to be a prostitute.
No girl dreams of being beaten, tortured, filmed and mocked, so a pimp can be paid.
No girl dreams of being addicted to drugs and alcohol, standing out in the cold, waiting for the next client.
Nevertheless, stories like Amy’s are common for women lured into the life of sex slavery. That’s why it is usually difficult for others to understand why or how girls allow themselves to be kept in that life:
- “Why didn’t she run away?”
- “Why did she get involved with him in the first place?”
- “Once she realized what was happening, why didn’t she call the police or her parents?”
Exploring these questions will help parents recognize their own children’s potential vulnerabilities to sex trafficking. If you know how other victims were deceived, you can take preventative action with your own family. Here are some of the reasons these victims stay rather than flee from their pimps:
- Love and Affection: These are — without a doubt — the most seductive tools in a pimp’s arsenal when dealing with young girls. All people want to be loved and affirmed, including the young women who are prime targets for sex traffickers. A pimp may work several girls in different cities at one time, trying to make each of them fall in love with him. If one doesn’t work out, surely one of the others will, and it is only a matter of time before he hits on the right girl who is impressed by his car, his money, his looks, and believes he needs her to be happy.
- Power and Abuse: As mentioned in the second article, “Traffickers Tricks, Traps and Techniques,” pimps will often beat and abuse their victims to establish control. Young victims will likely never see this ugly side of their seducer until it is too late; until they get into the car for the last time and are taken away from their home and family. By then, they are scared and confused. They don’t know where they are, their phone was taken away, and they have no money. At this point, they are faced with a simple choice: either comply and receive affection, praise, a smile and his favor, or rebel and endure more abuse, pain and suffering.
- Shame and Fear: This is the anchor that holds most young victims in bondage to their pimps even after the earlier “magic” and romance of their relationship fades away. They are told that no one back home understands or that no one would want to have anything to do with them now that they’ve been used and shamed as a sex slave. The pimp will reinforce these thoughts if she ever expresses a desire to leave. “Your parents don’t want you. They aren’t looking for you. What are you going to do, go back to school and turn tricks for all the boys in band? You’re useless!” Few children and young teens have the mental and emotional fortitude to stand up to this kind of psychological onslaught, especially when they are cut off from the support of family and friends.
- Stockholm Syndrome: This condition causes a girl or boy to eventually care for and defend their pimp, even against law enforcement. It is defined as, “feelings of trust or affection felt in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor.” After months or years of living with the pimp and his “family” of other victims, a child will likely become comfortable, looking beyond their current abuse and accepting, or even appreciating life as a sex slave. It is not uncommon for arrested teens in this situation to act with belligerence toward law enforcement and disdain for social workers, refusing to give any useful or identifying information. They will do whatever it takes to get back to the streets, their pimps, and the life they know as soon as possible.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” ~I Timothy 6:10a (ESV)
Pimps who have told the story of why they entered a life of trafficking others will often describe it as “hard work” to keep their stable of victims in check at all times. Many of them feel they have fairly earned the substantial income that their workers bring in to their pocketbook. Their “job” is psychological manipulation, staying educated about methods of pimping out their products, remaining in contact with old clients and open for opportunities with new ones. In short, pimps see themselves as business managers, moving their employees from one project to the next, while making a great deal of money — but there’s always room for more. The bottom line for these men and women is money: There is a lot to be made with relatively little risk. Their products can be used again and again with a very high rate of return.
No boy dreams of using women in vile and vulgar ways.
No boy dreams of beating, torturing, filming and mocking a young girl.
No boy dreams of being addicted to pornography.
Men and women who abuse others for sex are not born; they are shaped by the culture in which they are raised. There is no age group that defines the clients in sex trafficking; they range from teens to elderly. There is no economic or racial profile for this group, in part, because it is so easy for anyone to participate. All that is required is the current market rate for a half-hour of the victim’s time, an Internet connection, and a person can have a sex slave delivered to their home or hotel room in the same time it takes to get pizza delivery.
There are certain factors that promote the cultural influences that create clients for sex trafficking and parents can have a role in helping their children navigate or avoid them. The biggest negative influences in our culture today include:
- Easy, Guilt-Free Sex: Sex forms a cornerstone of many Hollywood films, primetime television series, YouTube® channels, advertisements and even grade school education. Once socially regarded as a sacred act between husbands and wives, sex is now commonly portrayed as a means of guilt-free pleasure.
- Digital Pornography Addiction: The science on the effects of digital pornography on the human brain is extensive. It leads to addictive behavior and, if exposed to it, can affect boys and girls before they enter puberty. The causal relationship between digital pornography and sex trafficking is well-known and documented. Once a person is regularly consuming pornography on-demand without relationship, a sense of conscience or human connection, the brain is rewired with that expectation for easy sex.
When the scenes on the screen become repetitive, mundane and are no longer satisfying, the next logical step for many individuals addicted to porn is to experience the real thing that, for a price, is available most everywhere. Child pornography has been expanding this way for years, with the videos creating the desire, the desire creating clients, and the clients filming their fantasies for others to watch. The availability of this particular depravity is only getting worse.
In 2008, there were 1,536 individual child abuse domains and more than 20,000 images of child porn posted each week.