Human trafficking myths

Like many people, when I first heard about human trafficking and sex trafficking, in particular, I assumed it was primarily an international problem. I know it occurred in other countries and there were large organizations dedicated to raids and setting up homes for survivors. I also figured women and girls, and some boys were initially trafficked by being tricked or sold into it as a result of poverty.

Just a few years ago, when I learned of Redeeming Love, I learned how prevalent sex trafficking is right here in my own backyard. And how the situation can look much different, yet the impact on the victim is just as severe.

When I speak with people about domestic sex trafficking, I run into many misconceptions. I’d like to address a few of them briefly here and then share about why the work of Redeeming Love is so crucial.

Myth #1 – Prostitutes are not slaves. Women choose to work in the sex industry. They are in control of their bodies and their choices.

This is perhaps the most pervasive or underlying myth. In domestic sex trafficking cases, the women are generally not chained to a bed or locked in a cellar. They appear to be free to go their own way, whether they are soliciting on the street corner, or showing up alone to a hotel room to meet a “client.” They may even have a reasonable story as to why they are working as a prostitute. But, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, in the vast majority of instances, women are being coerced by someone else. They are not in control of their choices, and they are not keeping the money they earn.

Examples abound as to how prostituted women are functionally slaves. Branding is common where a pimp will tattoo a victim, sometimes across her face, with his pimp name. Women are sold between pimps. They are told how much money they need to generate, and they are told when they can eat or sleep. If they have family or a child, these relationships can be used against them, and their contact with them limited as punishment.

Myth #2 – Women can just leave the life whenever they want.

Even though in domestic cases women are not typically chained or locked away, they have perhaps even tighter controls on them via mental and psychological manipulation. There are several ways pimps and traffickers will trap their victims. One is by playing a romantic role with a girl. Dubbed the “Romeo” pimp, the pimp will act as if he loves his victim, and as he gains her trust, can coerce her into being prostituted. There is also the “CEO” pimp who promises a job, maybe in modeling or acting, and convinces his victim that sex work is a part of the path to success. There are other styles, but in every case, it’s more effective for the pimp to control his victim’s mind, than it is to keep her locked away. Chains are more cumbersome than a mental bond anyway.

Myth #3 – Women just need a way out, and then they’ll be okay.

Recovery from being sex trafficked is long and arduous. There are many services available to people in need (think homeless shelters and rehabilitation clinics). But victims of sex trafficking are notoriously unsuccessful in completing these types of programs. The reason is that their trauma is much different and needs more targeted support. Recidivism is very high with sex trafficked survivors. The psychological chains to their traffickers are powerful, and often, even when a woman gets out of the life, she struggles continually with wanting to go back. For more insight into this concept, readers can learn about Stockholm Syndrome.

Why Redeeming Love is Needed

Survivors of sex trafficking need more than a new job opportunity, although this is a component of their freedom. Survivors need a place where they can rest, recover, and receive the targeted therapy required for breaking the bonds to their traffickers. It can take a long time, as well, which is why Redeeming Love’s program prepares for up to two years of working with a survivor, along with establishing lifelong mentoring for each individual.

The residential program is an opportunity for survivors to form a new community with people who care about them for who God created them to be, not what they can deliver or how they can perform. It’s a program centered on facilitating wholistic healing and freedom, so survivors are equipped to live self-sufficiently and able to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives.

Will you consider being a part of the solution? Giving Tuesday is November 28 and we hope to raise $50,000 by the end of the day. Get a head start by giving now. Visit our #WholenessForAll campaign page to donate.