Sex trafficking is a social problem that has been a headache to American society for centuries. There are millions of young people lured into sex trafficking every year with the main aim of making money, and everything associated with sex trafficking does more harm than good because there are usually drugs and violence connected to the practice. The Shared Hope International (2017) website defines sex trafficking as “occurs when someone uses force, fraud or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act.” This paper tries to find out who exactly are involved, how and why they get into sex trafficking, the travails of sex workers within the industry and the rehabilitation measures taken by organizations to counsel the ones that get out.
The video in this study showcases Nicole-a former victim of sex trafficking, now a community counselor, and panelists from law enforcement and organizations that help victims of sex trafficking. It is a discussion about Nicole’s experiences in the sex trafficking world, a community perspective from the other panelists, and callers seeking information and clarification on common issues concerned with sex trafficking. It is from the video that I will discuss, through Nicole’s experiences, the nature of the world of sex trafficking.
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Sex traffickers have one objective in mind money. Girls are lured by sweet talking men or women(pimps) who offer them a chance of a better life, as it was in Nicole’s case. Nicole speaks of her turbulent childhood, being under the care of her mother, who was a drug addict and a prostitute. She talks about her mother giving her up for adoption, being shunted around several foster homes before running away. It is the poor and desperate young girls that are an easy target for sex traffickers. The lure of having all your needs taken care of, even by anyone, is the main driving force behind young girls being trafficked for sex, given the level of desperation these girls have. A deeper psychological need is at play also in this case; need to feel affection.
Amber, another woman in the video who was previously involved in sex trafficking, recalls being drugged and taken to another state. This highlights a crude way sex traffickers recruit their staff, by intimidation. Unsuspecting teen girls are literally grabbed from the street and in turn given these promises of austerity coupled with threats of being harmed if they don’t comply with the sex traffickers’ rules. According to The A21 Campaign, families experiencing financial difficulty ‘sell’ their children to a trustworthy-looking person, with the promise that their kids will work for these people in legitimate jobs in exchange for money, not knowing that these people are potential sex traffickers. Some women, mostly immigrants looking for a better life abroad marry sex traffickers unbeknownst to them, till further in the marriage they are sold to pimps, or forced into doing a sexual activity with different people.
The panelists in the video uncover a different perspective where one suggests that some people go into this kind of business because from childhood, the life of hardship is the only life real to them and it is kind of their natural habitat. It is difficult for society to identify and help them because the sex workers do not feel like victims. These are the hardest cases because the victims grow to become sex traffickers themselves and are involved in drugs and violence. In other words, it is them rebelling against ‘The System’.
The panelists touch on the character of sex traffickers, as people having ‘sociopathic tendencies.' Sex traffickers are described as individuals out of touch with humanity and view others-women specifically, as tools and objects for making money. According to Human Trafficking Online, traffickers find it easy to do their activities since there is the promise of high profits with low risk involved. Meaning they can use other businesses as a decoy so that looking on the outside, one cannot tell a sex trafficking ring from a legitimate business. It is for this same reason that law enforcement has found it hard to crack down on sex trafficking websites because they are legitimate-looking sites that offer above board support like job advertisements (The A21 Campaign). Finding and shutting down a website could cause seven more to sprout, and hence therein lies the difficulty.
How and where do sex trafficking victims find the imperative to get out? Nicole’s way out was a maintenance problem from her ‘owners,' since they used to take care of her son too. Sex traffickers, as mentioned above, operate on low-risk and low-cost engagements in operations. This is a rare case of lack of finance being used to flog the unwanted. But there are deep psychological issues surrounding victims into not leaving. An article published on Germ Magazine says in the initial stages, the perpetrators build the victims trust, and once the victim has been initiated and trapped in the prostitution process, the perpetrator uses an “equally intensive process” and instils emotional trauma, causing the victim to believe there is no better place for them to go, so they stick to prostitution. This emotional trauma is aggravated by the use of threats against family members, or plain blackmail. In most cases, the victims are rarely out of sight, with traffickers having personnel watch them at all times. These lack of options combined with the fear of the unknown are the biggest factors making victims stay put. There is a more complicated psychological phenomenon that makes victims stay, even when their ‘bosses’ have their guard down, and they are in a position to ask for help -Stockholm Syndrome.
In an article published on Fair Observer, Shirley Julich (2013) explains that for each victim, they know there exists a threat to their physical survival, and they cannot survive without the protection of their abuser. She states that the victims feel some sort of ‘kindness and love’ from the perpetrators, and they translate minor forms of the feeling of being protected in that if the violence and threats cease, they can be interpreted as large forms of kindness and love. Julich (2013) also says that the victims are in a psychological and emotional prison, in which they are told they have themselves to blame and they see it that way. They align their worldviews with those of their abusers, and the psychological trap makes victims not to want to leave.
In the video, Nicole explains the emotional travails sex trafficking victims go through once they escape. First, there is the loneliness that led her to get back into prostitution, and she explains that she contemplated suicide (Public Broadcasting Service, 2017). The panelists compare this emotional trauma to PTSD experienced by war veterans, which the outer community isn’t aware of because when one is on the outside looking in, the experts say, they haven’t factored in the psychological and emotional changes to the brains of the victims and believe choices are straightforward. Nicole says most people associate sex trafficking in America as being confined to the big cities, and that the truth is the practice is prevalent in small towns, where it is easy for girls to get exploited too. She adds that the reason why those who escape from sex trafficking cannot seamlessly get back to ‘normal’ is there’s a lot of judgment and shaming from people, who put them in the same rank as actual prostitutes. She also adds there is a lack of support in the form of therapy, housing or even job training for ex-victims, making them feel isolated (Human Trafficking Hotline).
The problem with juvenile detention centers when sex trafficking victims are arrested on the job is most detention centers don’t recognize trauma and don’t have the resources to treat it. (Smith, Satija, and Walters, 2017). This is because of the qualities they have built up in working in these dangerous conditions put them at odds with caseworkers and care providers. The lack of enough specialized treatment centers across the country has made it difficult to mitigate the numbers of girls being lured back into sex trafficking. The panelists in the video bemoan the indifference of the public paying for sex with, for instance, young teenage girls, and they say they should be at the forefront of fighting sex trafficking. Nationwide campaigns against sex trafficking have begun to pick up, with many organizations such as Soroptimist Club Grants for Women and Girls program launched in 2007 that provides cash grants to innovative projects around the country that benefit women and girls, most precisely those who have escaped from the clutches of sex traffickers. The government has an educative process through its Secretary of State website that implores citizens with ways to fight sex trafficking, by encouraging citizens to volunteer and support anti-trafficking projects in the community (US Department of State, 2017).
In conclusion, the discussion in the video illustrates the issue of sex trafficking in a very vivid manner. Responsibility is deferred to parents and the community to raise children in a proper manner and instill values in them that will help them avoid desperate choices like sex trafficking. Society is also educated on the emotional and psychological trauma that ex-victims go through while in practice and once they escape. The government and private organizations’ efforts to fight sex trafficking through programs and treatment centers should be supported fully by civilians because the fight starts with us.
Germ Magazine (2016). Why Don’t They Just Leave? Retrieved from http://www.germmagazine.com/why-dont-they-just-leave/
Human Trafficking Hotline (n.d). The Traffickers . Retrieved from https://humantraffickinghotline.org/what-human-trafficking/human-trafficking/traffickers
Julich, S. (2013). Stockholm Syndrome and Sex Trafficking; Why Don’t They Do Something ? Retrieved from http://www.fairobserver.com/region/north_america/stockholm-syndrome-sex-trafficking-why-dont-they-do-something/
Public Broadcasting Service (2017). Teen Connection; Sex Trafficking . Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/video/2365262850/
Shared Hope International (2017). What Is Sex Trafficking? Retrieved from http://sharedhope.org/the-problem/what-is-sex-trafficking/
Smith, S. Satija,N, and Walters,E. (2017). When It Comes To Help Sex Trafficking Victims, Success Is Elusive , Retrieved from https://www.texastribune.org/2017/02/17/when-it-comes-helping-sex-trafficking-victims-success-elusive/
Soroptimist (2012). Sex Slavery/Trafficking: Frequently Asked Questions . Retrieved from http://www.soroptimist.org/trafficking/faq.html
The A21 Campaign (n.d) Abolishing Injustice in the 21st Century: 5 ways people are trafficked . Retrieved on Feb 26 th from http://www.a21.org/content/5-ways-people-are-trafficked/gjdpiq?permcode=gjdpiq&site=true
US Department Of State, Diplomacy in Action (2017). 15 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking. Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/j/tip/id/help/