Sex trafficking is currently the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. The demand for sex is consistently being met with a devastating supply of victimized human beings. Traffickers use various recruitment methods to lure in new victims that range from psychological coercion to physical force.
"THEY PREY ON THE LONGINGS OF THE VICTIM'S HEART AND FILL PSYCHOLOGICAL WOUNDS THAT THE VICTIM HAS HAD INFLICTED ON HIM OR HER."
The tactic we are most likely to see Hollywood depict is the abduction method, or kidnapping. This is probably the most known recruitment method but is certainly not the most common. Pimps know how to play on their victim’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. They prey on the longings of the victim’s heart and fill psychological wounds that the victim has had inflicted on him or her in a previous life experience. Many sex trafficking victims experience domestic physical or emotional abuse prior to their recruitment. Typically, these youth are more likely to fall victim to the trafficker’s ploys because of deep-seated emotional wounds that the trafficker promises to heal. Traffickers often target girls, on average between the ages of 12 to 14, who have an absent or abusive father. The trafficker plays into the role of “guardian,” and deceives the girls into thinking that he will fulfill the role as father. Some pimps go so far as to force the girls to call them “daddy,” once they have the girls trapped as sex slaves. Over time, the girls may become attached to their captor because he has become their definition of a father. This is a psychological method that is commonly used to not only draw girls into the industry but to keep girls there.
"THEY KNOW WHAT TO SAY AND WHAT TO PROMISE TO ESTABLISH AN EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT WITH YOUNG GIRLS."
The “daddy” method is similar to arguably the most common method of coercion. Social media has become a stomping ground for sexual predators who message girls with complimentary phrases. The flirtatious guise masks the recruiter’s true intent, which is to find out information about the girl. Is she alone? Does she have loving parents? Is she vulnerable? Will she meet up with the man? These are all questions that are garnered from social media conversations between youth and traffickers. Pimps know how to charm. They know what to say and what to promise to establish an emotional attachment with young girls. The trafficker claims to love the victim and leverages this power to convince the victim to perform sexual acts. It often comes down to this type of statement, “If you love me, you will do this for me.” As tragic as it is, it is an incredibly common way that victims are pulled onto the streets and then held in invisible chains. It is a sickening form of psychological manipulation.
While traffickers often perform recruitments personally, they are also known to send out other victims to do the job. In some sex trafficking rings, the pimps set up a hierarchy, in which the most seasoned victim, and therefore the most trusted by the pimp, is sent out to recruit other girls and boys. This trusted victim is known as the “bottom” and is often responsible for keeping track of fellow victims’ monetary earnings and discipline. Essentially, victims are expected to create more victims. This is the depth of control their captors have over them.
Whoever is recruiting, whether it be the pimp or another victim, the promise of a job opportunity is often enough to convince people to meet up with a pimp, who they blindly believe is a legitimate employer. The victims are told they will be given a modeling contract, a waitressing job, a construction position, etc. This promise is sometimes all it takes to lure the victim in and turn them into a sex slave. The victim is taken to the “job site” where they realize that the job they believed they were getting does not exist. But by the time they realize this truth, it is too late.
" SHE WILL LIKELY NEVER KNOW THAT THE MAN WHO "SAVED" HER FROM GANG RAPE WAS ACTUALLY THE MAN WHO ORCHESTRATED IT ALL. "
While all these methods are grotesque and appalling, the last method to be discussed in this article rendered me speechless and made it immensely more difficult to continue research. Traffickers have been known to assign predators to attack a given victim, to physically and emotionally brutalize her, to gang rape her. When the attack ensues, the trafficker runs into the chaos and “rescues” her, becoming someone she is forever indebted to, or so he makes her believe. He instantly becomes her “hero” and uses this leverage to turn her into a sex slave. She will likely never know that the man who “saved” her from gang rape was actually the man who orchestrated it all.
It is essential to be aware of these various tactics, and while it is clear that many of these tactics are not preventable through mere awareness, this does not excuse us from turning away from warning signs. Ignorance is absolutely not bliss when it comes to the lives of innocent human beings. Recruitment happens all over and all the time. The more people are aware of this reality, the more effectively we can monitor our surroundings, and better protect ourselves, those around us, and those we love.