by Melissa Snow
Shared Hope International has conducted field research on child sex trafficking across the U.S. This research found underage girls are the bulk of victims in commercial sex markets – this includes pornography, stripping, escort services, and prostitution. There are three main manifestations of child sex trafficking in America: pimp-controlled prostitution, familial prostitution, and “survival” sex. Melissa Snow, Director of Programs for Shared Hope International, will be bringing you periodic updates from the field: the reality of child sex trafficking in America.
It’s happening across the U.S.- from Maryland to Minnesota, Iowa to Utah, American children as young as 12 years old are being sold by pimps in prostitution. By law, any child in prostitution is a victim of human trafficking. And how can such rampant sexual exploitation of America’s youth exist? Pimp control. We use “pimp control” to refer to the targeting, recruiting, and maintaining of a person for commercial sexual exploitation- in many cases, a child.
Here in America, the average age a child is targeted and recruited into sex trafficking is 13 years old. Pimps prey on the innocence of youth because it provides them with a target that can be romanced, tricked and then brutally forced into the sex trafficking market. Pimps use a variety of techniques to target and recruit a child into prostitution, from immediate force and violence as demonstrated in the case of two underage girls from Toledo, to the more common “loverboy” or boyfriend approach.
With either approach, pimps prey on and target girls who project a low self-esteem, or who have run away from home due to familial physical or sexual abuse. This provides the pimps with the opportunity to fill the gap of the lover or caretaker role as both “daddy and boyfriend”. The pimp will invest as much time as necessary into securing the trust and loyalty of his victim. He will fulfill all his promises, buy her nice things and say all the caring words that she has been longing for – biding time to turn the seemingly caring relationship into one of sexual exploitation and torture.
Mickey Royal, a self-proclaimed pimp who has written a book “The Pimp Game: Instruction Guide” explains the process:
“This is the first step in getting her to totally depend on you. You’ll start to dress her, think for her, own her. Her family will become her No. 1 enemy and she’ll attack them with all she has because they are trying to keep her from that which brings her joy – You. If you and your victim are sexually active, then slow it down. Once a week is fine. After sex, take her shopping for one item. Hair and/or nails are fine. She will develop a feeling of accomplishment. The shopping after a month will be 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.”
Once she is locked in to this exploitation, it is extremely difficult to get out. The pimp controls every movement both physically and psychologically. He tells her what to wear, how much to charge, and who to serve. She is often not allowed to come home until the full quota of clients is met. All of the money is handed over to the pimp each night.
While the statistics of child sex trafficking in America are daunting it is clear from the recent arrests of child sex traffickers that awareness is leading to victim identification and response. We must applaud this aggressive action and encourage more awareness. Sex trafficking of children in America is real. It’s happening here, and we can take action to stop it.