ATP’s Counter Trafficking Team often comes across escort ads highlighting girls we believe are either in the early stages of being trafficked or if over 18, possibly experimenting with prostitution on their own.
Recently, we located a young 18-19 year old Ohio woman we will call “J.” We believe “J” is being trafficked but is possibly in the early stages in which she might still be receptive to assistance.
Our second case concerns a young Colorado woman we will call “L.” She is roughly 20-21 years of age and has no children. “L” is likely engaging in prostitution as a means of financial support. She may be buying into the lie perpetuated by certain segments of the population and media that portray sex work is a viable option to earn a living.
Both these tragic stories need not continue. “J” needs to believe people care and want to help her. Law enforcement and victims’ advocates are standing by to assist her at any time.
We hope and pray that before a pimp gets his hands on “L,” making her ability to exit “the life” even more challenging, she recognizes that she is worthy of a much better life.
For ATP and law enforcement, the key to success is to try to recover victims in the early stages of the abuse cycle.
In the past, pimps were slow and methodical about the breaking phase, but that has changed. The newer generation of pimps do not have the patience for a drawn out manipulation, so they often resort to extremely violent acts including gang rapes. Over the course of 24 to 48 hours, the pimp and his cohorts use psychological warfare tactics not unlike what POWs experience. One of the most abhorrent aspects of this breaking process involves the repeated rape of their victims while force-feeding them hard drugs to keep them pliable.
After the breaking phase, pimps use coercion tactics to keep the victim from seeking help or talking with law enforcement. One of the most common tactics involves the pimp impregnating his victim. This child affords the pimp additional leverage. While the girl is earning her “trap,” her child is cared for by the pimp or his associates. If the victim seeks help or finds herself arrested, she is likely to stay quiet as long as the pimp, who is the legal father, is holding her child.
Pimps also place their victims in legal jeopardy by involving them in the selling of drugs. If the trafficking victim were to be arrested or attempt to seek assistance from law enforcement, the pimp could incriminate her as a drug dealer and unfit mother.
The only constant in the life of the victim is her pimp. While controlling and methodically rationing her basic human necessities, he becomes her sole provider, offering a grossly distorted sense of love, acceptance, and belonging.
For the majority of people who have not grown up in this type of environment, it’s difficult to understand how one reaches this point. What is paramount is to appreciate the short window we have to reach these victims.
We must be proactive. It is essential that parents and young people understand what they are up against and learn to identify these threats in the virtual as well as physical world.
Keep following along as we continue to share more counter-trafficking stories in the coming weeks. You can support this important work right here.