“The Life” Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

We see it every day, but often choose to ignore it. Women and children working in the sex trade. We hear a great deal about human trafficking and the toll it takes on countries and those that are left to lead lives of horror and abuse. What we seem to forget however is that Canadian women and children are sold into sexual slavery every day in this country and it is a multi-billion dollar business. How we deal with this issue will determine how many other victims we will tolerate and how far we are willing to allow the pimps and traffickers to go to take our most precious resource.
Several days ago there was an arrest made in our City. What makes this arrest so different from the dozens that occur every day is the fact that the individuals arrested were picked up in a Human Trafficking ring. Now “Human Trafficking” often referred to as “White Slavery” is nothing new. It has existed in one form or another for hundreds of years. Trafficking in human beings involves obtaining and maintaining the services or labor of another through fraud, force, or coercion; although for our purposes I’d like to focus on the sex trade in general.

As a Peace Officer, father and youth worker with over 25 years experience working with “High Risk” teens and juvenile prostitutes, I’d like to make you more aware of the realities of “The Life” and how we can identify those at risk for exploitation, and abuse. I’d also like to talk about how pimps identify, select and recruit young women into lives of pain, degradation and horror. We’ll explore some of the myths and misconceptions around this very real problem and what can be done to keep our children from becoming targets for predators.

Although most people are aware of prostitution in a vague sort of way, they seem surprised when I tell them that trafficking in humans is a global phenomenon, as well as one of the world’s fastest growing criminal activities. Human trafficking generates billions of dollars in revenue worldwide and is considered to be on the same scale as drugs and guns as a criminal enterprise. Most individuals are not aware that most of the escorts and prostitutes working in our cities have been forced into sexual slavery and are controlled by small time pimps and sophisticated organized crime syndicates.

I’m not going to split hairs here prostitution and trafficking are two different animals, but they both victimize women and involve sexual slavery and abuse so if I’m making them sound like they are the same thing; it’s because basically they are. To give you an example of how much money is generated in an average city, I’ve taken the liberty of scrolling through the “erotic services” section of one of the two big boards online. On an average day, there is $285,600 in potential sales for each of these boards alone. How did I come up with this number? Well; a 1 hour session with an escort ranges from $280-$300. There were 37 young women offering their services; you do the math. Remember this is only one board and does not take into account, street prostitution, common bawdy houses, massage parlors, trick pads, escort agencies, pornographic studio’s etc. Pimps routinely take $300-$1500 per day from each of their prostitutes. Are you starting to get the picture? Let’s dispel one of the big myths surrounding all prostitution right now.

Myth #1 “A prostitute/escort only has a few sexual encounters during a shift. They can choose who they will/will not service.” The facts are that prostitutes/escorts don’t have the luxury of being too picky about who they service. Often they will have sex with between 15-30 men per day, sometimes without condoms because their pimp can get more money. They often commit acts that are humiliating, degrading and dangerous in order to meet their quotas and are sometimes robbed and raped. They are also exposed to STI’s, unwanted pregnancies, PTSD and at increased risk for suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. Escorts and prostitutes are often required to be available 24/7 in order to meet their quotas.

This gives you a quick look at how easy it is to access young (sometimes under aged) sex trade workers in any city. To put this into perspective; in 2006 it is estimated that up to 900,000 women were sold into sexual slavery worldwide with over 25,000 coming to North America alone. This number does not include Canadian citizens who were exploited and trafficked within our own borders. Here is a second myth exposed;

Myth #2 “Victims of human trafficking must be foreign nationals or illegal aliens.” The truth is that many victims of human trafficking come from within our own borders. Both Canadian nationals and foreign nationals are equally protected under Canadian law. Particularly in cases involving child sex trafficking.

So many times when I speak to people about the realities of “The Life” and just how insidious these types of predators can be, they often have no real concept of what is really involved. Often they have a “Pretty Woman” vision of prostitution. They are unaware of the complex dynamics involved and how abuse, torture and psychological warfare are used to control their victims. (I lump pimps and traffickers in together, as they both prey upon the vulnerable and weak, and use similar methods to acquire and control their victims. Besides crap is still crap no matter how you dress it up.)

Both prostitution and trafficking utilize psychological manipulation and violence to control and profit from their victims. Girls as young as 13-14 are routinely lured into prostitution through a combination of lies, force and coercion. They are then systematically dehumanized and abused until any will to resist is gone. This exposes perhaps one of the most common myths about “The Life”;

Myth #3 “They knew what they were getting into.” This myth would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. It’s an excuse not to have to look too closely at the ugly truth. Pimps and traffickers target those who are vulnerable; runaway’s, victims of neglect or abuse, poor socio-economic conditions, etc. They are skilled at picking out those that are lost, alone or unaware and using a combination of psychology and force to break them down until there is very little will to resist. Generally when I tell people about young women I’ve known; the ones who were gang raped as a method of “Breaking In” a new girl, or the beautiful 17 year old girl so psychologically and spiritually damaged that she referred to herself as “Meat” they begin to see this for the fallacy it is. The fact is that no one would willingly subject themselves to this kind of pain, degradation and abuse. Also it doesn’t matter if they consented to become involved in the first place or not. If coercion, force or fraud are involved at any point, or the victim is a minor then consent is irrelevant, nor is payment or the lack thereof.

Myth #4 “They have the choice to leave at any time.” In technical terms this is what I refer to as complete and utter crapola. In most cases those involved in the sex trade have limited access to the funds, privacy, and opportunities necessary to leave. In the case of sex trafficking, victims they may have the additional pressure of not knowing the language, being in the country illegally and fearing prosecution and feelings of shame and fear for their family’s safety, or having their family find out about their activities. Pimps and traffickers have been known to film girls during their “Breaking In” and threaten to send the video to the girl’s community/family if they disobey.

OK, so we’ve established that there’s a great deal of misconception around this whole topic and I’ve given you my opinion on a few of them. Books have been written on the topic that will do a far better job than I can of explaining the complex social dynamics that are involved in the sex for sale industry. More importantly I think though is what we can do about it, and how we can educate and protect our children from ever becoming involved in the first place.

Some Facts About The Sex Trade In Canada

* Prostitution and human trafficking are controlled by organized crime.
* The sex trade is a business period.
* Prostitution and human sex trafficking is often the same thing.
* Women are a commodity that can be bought, sold, or traded.
* Women involved in the sex trades often contribute to secondary criminal enterprises through the sales of illegal drugs while providing sexual services.
* Cities from Victoria to Halifax are part of “The Circuit”. This is a means for pimps to keep their victims isolated, forces them to become financially and emotionally reliant on the pimp, and provides fresh girls to keep up market demand. It also allows pimps to keep the pressure off of them by attempting to confuse law enforcement personnel.
* Contrary to popular belief, it is not always the poor and disenfranchised that are targeted. In Canada young women between the ages of 12-25 are often targeted for recruitment by male peers who may have also been recruited by organized criminal networks specifically for this purpose.
* Social networking sites are being increasingly utilized as a means for recruitment and to make the sex trade accessible and culturally attractive to the target audience.
* Control and retention of prostitution/escorts is achieved through the use of force. This would include girls who are abducted, assaulted, drugged, forcibly confined, and sexually assaulted.
* More subtle means of control are also used to ensure that girls do what they are told and keep making money. Coercion, threats (self/family/exposure), controlling associations, communication, residence, privacy are all techniques employed by pimps to keep girls scared and earning.
* Human trafficking and prostitution are sometimes linked to/operated through semi-legitimate businesses. (Massage parlors, pizza places, nail salons, etc).
* Street gangs sometimes include younger male members due to their access to young women who may be vulnerable for recruitment into prostitution or pornography. It also provides another connection between gangs and organized crime. (Guns, Drugs, Women).
* Sex trade workers in Canada hand over most or all of their earnings to their pimp in exchange for the necessities of life (food, clothing, and shelter).
* Prostitution is a profitable business. You’ve seen the numbers so you know the earning potential and why pimps and organized crime take the risk. A pimp who has just 5 girls working for him making between $300-1500 daily could earn him $1,638,000/year. That’s right and all tax free. Now do the math. If you’re a criminal organization with 40 girls working, your earning potential goes up to $13,104,000/year.
* Canadian women are at risk for sex trafficking too. Every year young women are lured into the sex trade with promises of modeling jobs abroad. Just because they have a website does not mean they are legitimate.

There are numerous risk factors that would predispose a young person to being vulnerable for recruitment into prostitution or pornography. However for young people there seems to be two fairly consistent methods being employed by pimps and gangs to locate and recruit young, impressionable women into a life of servitude and abuse.

Recruitment via Vulnerability

Unfortunately many young women have a tragic history of abuse and neglect in their lives. Pimps and sex traffickers prey upon this vulnerability and will often provide an illusion of caring and concern in order to develop trust and rapport with the intended victim. The goal is to separate the victim from any help or support, develop a rapport and reliance on the pimp and gradually steer the relationship towards the subject of sex for money. Pimps apply a variety of tactics to get young women involved in the sex trade. Some are subtle; (telling the girl that as a couple they have earned a substantial drug debt, but that the debt will be forgiven if the girl sleeps with the dealer). Some not so subtle (shame, rape, beating, addiction) as a means to gain control and compliance. Properly executed this scam effectively cuts the victim off from help and support and increases their vulnerability to further abuse and neglect. It becomes a never ending cycle.

Recruitment via Addiction/Acceptance

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but all young women are at risk on one level or another and many will experiment with “High Risk” behaviors with no negative outcomes. However it is important to note that lack of life experience and exposure to older more experienced males can place them in vulnerable situations that they may be ill equipped to deal with. Many pimps are smooth, intelligent, and extremely manipulative and will exploit a young person’s rebellious nature. Young women are often encouraged into increasingly risky behaviors (drugs, sex with multiple partners ET) and eventually “Broken In” by clients or associates of the pimp.

What’s the solution?

Well that’s where it gets tough, doesn’t it? There is no single solution to the problem. It is after all the world’s oldest profession. When you look at it on a global scale it becomes too big and scary to contemplate. However when we act locally then we affect the problem globally. Sounds like more Dr. Phil quasi-political/psychological crap right? Well it’s not; there are a great number of things we can do in our own community to help solve the problem.

First and foremost people have got to acknowledge that the problem exists and that everyone’s daughter is a potential source of income to one of these predators.
We need to educate ourselves, our educators, law enforcement and most importantly our children how these types of individuals operate and expose them for what they are…predators.
We need to educate our daughters to be strong, independent women from a young age and show them what this looks like.
We also need to expose the myths and misconceptions that surround the sex trade and look at it for what it is…a business that profits from the sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children.
We also need the social will and infrastructure to deal with the problem. It’s not cheap rebuilding shattered lives and if we want to realistically deal with the problem it’s going to require a lot of money, time and effort and not just with the sex trade workers. Society as a whole will need to wake up and see what is so carefully hidden in plain site. The abuse, fear and neglect. How come when this happens in a country during a war (Kosovo) it gets international attention? When it happens to children in our cities every day however we turn a blind eye.
Lastly we need to put some laws in place with teeth for both the pimps and those that facilitate the continuance of the cycle of abuse. I would humbly suggest 200 years as a warning for a first offence of pimping or sex trafficking. OK, OK on a first offence you’d only serve 2/3 of the sentence, so he’d be out in 180 years. We need to start seizing some of the millions that are being earned through sexual abuse and degradation and re-distributing it directly to organizations that work with victims and sex trade workers to force the problem to pay for the solution

source: http://www.wireservice.ca/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1877


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. My own daughter was recruited by a woman, a sex trafficker, traveling through Oregon. She used the “model” bait on her. Daughter also had 2 small children with her at the time. Long story short, the children later began talking about being used in porn themselves. They went into very specific details about it all. Their mother was involved, too. This was reported to numerous agencies as far up as Washington DC. No one ever did anything to help the children, and they are still in this situation, and maybe by now, being forced to prostitute (they are preteens). So what do you do when no one will rescue the children, take matters into your own hands? At this point in time, this has been reported to over 20 agencies. I just want the name of one that WILL actually do something. There is a paper trail a mile long, and lots of EVIDENCE. This happened in Nashville, the city that seems to be the capital for “child porn”, Google “Nashville child porn investigations” and see…

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