In case you missed the first part of McSex you can read that here. I wrote this as the intro (if you read this, skip down and start under the picture): This year I decided to research the issue of human trafficking, a issue that has become widespread in popularity. I didn’t understand it and had doubts about its existence in Canada outside stereotypical prostitution. My findings have been sobering. After interviewing those who work with restoring the lives of trafficking victims, talking with girls who have come out of trafficking in Canada and reading the book, Invisible Chains, Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking by Benjamin Perrin, I can assure you that trafficking not only exists in our cities, but is growing more and more each year. I wanted to share with you some of my findings from the book Invisible Chains as well as from my interviews. If you are unaware about trafficking in Canada and North America in general, read and be educated. This is a problem that isn’t going away. More than ever, we need education to bring awareness and protect our young ones. I would challenge you not to only read, but take it personally. This is our country, our home and our children. We can’t ignore this.
My burning question about trafficking has been: How does a girl get wrapped up in this and why does she stay?
Benjamin Perrin has great insight in his book, Invisible Chains on this. He writes, “Poverty, the desire for love, and the desire for money, in that order, are the three key vulnerabilities that permit domestic sex traffickers to recruit and control victims, according to those familiar with the techniques.”
Traffickers seek out victims looking for love and attention. They will become the girl’s boyfriend by luring the girl in by telling them they are beautiful, and pampering them taking them to fancy restaurants and lavishing them with gifts. ”By showering a targeted girl with affection and fulfilling her material desires, the trafficker builds allegiance, eventually allowing him to manipulate her. Street gangs refer to these recruiting tactics as ‘love bombing’. This particular exploitation process requires that the girls be sexually inexperienced. For this reason, most are recruited between 14-16 years old, with some as young as 12. The more extreme the poverty that srrounds them, the younger the girls can be recruited. These inexperienced girls think they know more than they do, and very quickly the boyfriend will have them engaging in intercourse. He professes love while introducing other seemingly innocent acts to break down barriers such as having a girl put on lingerie and dance for him. To create a sense of normality, the “boyfriend” will introduce sex acts that a girl may never have performed. He will escort her to parties, where she is given drugs and alcohol to facilitate the exploitation. Engaging in sex acts with other people present or being in the same room while other people have sex breaks down the girl’s sexual boundaries.”
Let’s just stop there for a second. When I read this, I was extremely disturbed at not only the age of the girls, but also the lack of self respect these girls have to start in order to be lured. The fact that traffickers target girls like this has me greatly concerned for the many girls I see daily in schools who fit this exact criteria. Even girls from great homes struggle with identity at this tender age. How can we protect them and instil inside of them their importance and worth? I am again reminded how much our girls need us to model for them what a secure woman looks like. They need to be heard and nurtured through their insecurities and doubts. They need to be told of their beauty from us… or someone else will. And sometimes, it can be as serious as this:
“Street gangs may force the victim to engage in sex acts with their members one after the other. Not surprisingly, studies have found a culture of silence about these gang bangs. Degrading and humiliating, this type of sexual assault is designed to traumatize and desensitize the victim. It represents a yardstick against which future sex acts will seem less egregious.”
The process used by these recruiters is tried and true. Anick Gagnon of Projet Intervention Prositution de Quebec has identified 5 steps in the life cycle of domestic sex-trafficking.
- The recruiter looks for any vulnerability they can exploit and offers something to meet the needs or desires of the target. The recruiter engages in conversation looking for something like a recent breakup or troubles at home. This is an opening the recruiter will jump on.
- The trafficker begins building an intimate relationship with the victim. After the trafficker has identified the most effective way to “groom” the victim, he uses coersion, manipulation and if necessary, direct physical force to compel the victim to be sold for sex the first time. Manipulation such as, “I’ll get my legs broken if we don’t pay this money…” or “See all those gifts I bought you? Well, they aren’t free. You need to pay me back now and this is how.”
- The “honeymoon” period: when the victim holds out that their nightmare will ned but they only continue to be exploited.
- Crisis: This could be the arrest of the victim, an STD is contracted, or they are brutally assaulted by a purchaser.
- Dilemma: either they attempt escape and seek help with greater determination (and risk) than they demonstrated earlier, or resign to further exploitation with no end in sight.
What was even more disturbing, was to read that sex traffickers can even find books on how to control and manipulate victims. These published manuals are read and can be found on popular websites such as amazon.com!
This is an excerpt from a 1998 “instructional manual” describing proven tactics employed by traffickers to control their victims.
“You’ll start to dress her, think for her, own her. If you and your victim are sexually active, slow it down. After sex, take her shopping for one item. Hair and/or nails is fine. She’ll develop a feeling of accomplishemnt. The shopping after a month we ill replaced with cash. The love making turns into raw sex. She’ll start to crave the intimacy and be willing to get back into your good graces. After you have broken her spirit, she has no sense of self value. Now pimp, put a price tag on the item you have manufactured.”
What I find interesting about this is the fact that there are girls who find themselves trapped in this dominance, desperate to escape, while average moms are finding “escape” in reading about dominance and S&M in books like 50 Shades of Grey. While one is trapped in hell, another is reading and fantasizing about it. Is it just me, or is that just warped?
A police officer in rescuing trafficking victims said, “Nobody can get into the mindset of these girls. How does an average person relate to it? They can’t. When I first came to this unit I thought the same thing – ‘What’s wrong with these girls??’ Very quickly learn they are forced to do this. They are victims.” We need to understand that they are isolated from society; in motel rooms for long periods of time, sometimes in closets, closed rooms or even trunks of cars. They are given the occassional affection to build emotional dependancy on the trafficker. There may be threats against the victims family, starvation, and sleep deprivation.
A youth intervention worker states, “Part of the psychology that keeps her trapped is a codependance which says; “I’m gong to win him back, I’m going to do this.” They think he’ll love them more if they do this. Their self esteem is so bad they don’t think they’re worth anything else. When they define their life experiences, they minimize the abuse and consider they’ve been exploited. Victims may develop a sense of loyalty to their exploiters because they represent the only constant people in their lives.
I often hear women ask, “What can I do to make a difference?” After my findings on how young girls find themselves trapped in trafficking I can see how much we really can do for the girls who surround us. Simple things like believing in them, listening to them, gaining permission to speak encouragement into their lives by being consistent, modelling a life of self respect – these may seem small, but it may just save a girl’s life. We need to pick up our game again in the area of taking young women under our wing. This may mean putting down the magic mirror on the wall of distraction in our lives and live for a greater purpose of investing in the lives of young people – rather than obsessing over staying young ourselves. While we’re getting anti-aging treatments, there’s a generation left to wolves. We can do a world of good for them if we’re available.
Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know. – William Wilberforce, speech to Westminster parliment calling for the abolition of slavery May 12, 1789
Trafficking is one of the topics in the show Invisible showing at Theatre Junction Grand, June 14-15, 2013.