Sex Trafficking is when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, OR when the person induced to performed the act is under 18 years old. A commercial sex act means any item of value (money, shelter, food, drugs) is traded for any sexual service (prostitution, pornography, or sexual performance). Sex Trafficking thrives because there is serious demand. Buyers or “Johns” fuel the market with their money. Traffickers or “Pimps” exploit victims to earn money from the buyers. Victims include both males and females who are bought and sold for profit.
Traffickers find victims through social networks, home neighborhoods, clubs/bars, the internet, and schools. Traffickers lure victims through promises of protection, adventure, home, love, and opportunity. Traffickers use violence, fear, threats, and intimidation to ensure compliance from their victims to meet the demand of the buyers. The common age a child enters sex trafficking is 14-16. They are often too young and naïve to realize what’s happening. The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a tremendous problem in the United States. Runaway and homeless youth are especially vulnerable to the manipulation of traffickers. Sex trafficking can happen to anyone but other vulnerable risk factors in addition to youth include: substance use, immigration status, mental health concerns, and involvement with the child welfare system.
Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics. The most common include physical and emotional abuse and threats, isolation from friends and family, and economic abuse. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for multiple reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or threats of physical violence to themselves or their family. (Information adapted from Shared Hope International and Polaris Project)
If You are a Survivor of Sex Trafficking
- Remember that you are NOT to blame. The perpetrators – the sellers and buyers – of trafficked individuals are responsible.
- Place the blame where it belongs. Guilt or self-blame is a frequent response to being used in the sex industry. Survivors sometimes worry that they could have done something to prevent this from happening to them. In truth, the pimp targets his victims. Choosing to make-out, stay out late, or wear certain clothes does not cause sex trafficking.
- You may experience a whole range of feelings, including anger, fear, shame, dirtiness, shock, guilt, helplessness, distrust, disbelief, self-doubt, exhaustion, and depression.
- Nightmares and flashbacks are normal. Nightmares are a common, often terrifying, response to traumatic events. Many survivors also experience flashbacks – intense feelings of re-experiencing the events of being trafficked.
- Seek support. You do not have to deal with this on your own. When you’re ready to talk, contact an advocate, counselor, supportive family member or trusted friend. The CARDV Crisis and Support Line (541-754-0110) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Give yourself permission to make your own decisions. Right now it’s important for you to have control over some part of your life. This may be difficult, and you may have mixed feelings about what to do. Give yourself permission to make the decisions that are best and healthiest for you. Speaking with confidential advocates on CARDV’s crisis and support line is a good way to get non-judgmental support and to find out about local resources.
- You may get lots of advice and questions from other people. Some people may say things that sound like they are judging you, or trying to make you feel responsible for the abuse you have experienced. Remember that no matter what happened, no one deserves to be abused. It was not your fault.
- Have a safety plan. Find others you can turn to for help and support: perhaps a family member or a neighbor. Call CARDV’s 24-Hr Crisis and Support Line for information, emotional support, and assistance. (541-754-0110)
- It is possible to escape and heal from sex trafficking. It will take time and work, but healing is possible, and it’s worth it. You have already survived the hardest part on your own; you don’t have to do the rest alone.
- CARDV advocates are available to meet with you in person for support or can accompany you to the hospital, to law enforcement if you decide to report, or can attend legal proceedings with you. CARDV also has safe, confidential shelter available.
You deserve to have support. You deserve to be safe.
How to Help a Survivor of Sex Trafficking
- Believe them. Let the survivor know that you believe them and you will support them.
- Listen. Offer non-judgmental, non-blaming listening. Listen with compassion without asking questions that begin with why, or imply that they are responsible in any way for the abuse they have survived. Let them express their feelings in a time and manner that is comfortable for them.
- Encourage them to call CARDV’s 24-Hr Crisis and Support Line (541-754-0110)
- Ask them how you can help keep them safe. If possible, let them know you are available to drive them somewhere, give them a safe place to stay, help them obtain needed medications or other medical services, make copies of important documents, or any other help you feel you can safely provide.
- Be patient. Don’t try to rush the decision-making process. Give them time. Survivors know their situation best.
- Encourage them to seek additional support. Let them know it’s OK to contact an advocate at CARDV or a professional counselor to help them work through the feelings they are experiencing. Helping them build a strong support network is one of the best things you can do.
Take care of yourself. Supporting someone through a traumatic experience can be emotionally draining. Remember that the CARDV crisis and support line is available for support people too.