January is “Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” a time for the United States government and private sectors to recognize the plight of trafficking-in-persons. Most people see the billboards, read the tweets and posts, but few have an opportunity to explore the meaning of human trafficking and its impact upon sex trafficking.
What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is the enslavement of people who are exploited and forcibly “SOLD”for “Sex. Organ. Labor. Drug.” trafficking. The legal definition of “trafficking” is to recruit, transport, harbor or use acts of coercion, fraud, deception, or abuse to exploit victims for profit.
For more than a decade, America has emphasized international and domestic “human trafficking” with details to labor and sexual victimization of women and children from Asia, India, and Russia.
Women and children in America suffer from sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Some of these victims are located in Georgia, most located in Atlanta and the surrounding areas. These young women and children are victims of “JUST US” – Juvenile Urban Sex trafficking in the United States.
“Urban Trafficking” is a concept of approaching the experiences of victims of sex trafficking within urban, suburban, and rural corridors whose pimps, purchasers and profiteers rely upon and take advantage of metropolitan areas (epicenters or urban centers) to sell women and children.
These young women and children represent all walks of life. They live throughout the 159 counties in Georgia and can be found in Fayette, Coweta, Fulton, DeKalb, Henry, and surrounding areas.
Sexual exploitation adversely impacts all young women and children, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or nationality, though most of the victims are African-American and non-white Hispanic/Latinas girls. Their pimps are generally African-American males and their “Johns” are generally white males.
Understanding the Ps in Sex Trafficking
A John is a person who buys sex. If the person sold is an underage victim of sex trafficking then, the “John” is called a “child rapist.” In Georgia, a person under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex with an adult. It is important to understand the Ps in sex trafficking and their role.
The panders transports harbors and/or procures women and children. The pimp sells them to the “John” or purchaser and the profiteer benefits from each transaction. The profiteer may be a hotel, a transport company, convention or event planner, website or online companies and person or corporation who reaps financial benefits from the acts of the pimp.
Some victims in Georgia are as young as 10 years of age and some are college students. It is critical that people understand the difference between prostitution, sex trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation, and molestation. Often, these terms are used interchangeably, but they have different meanings both factually and legally.
In Georgia, prostitution is consensual sex for profit or the exchange of money or something for profit. A victim of sex trafficking does not consent to be sold for sex. Therefore, aiding victims of sex trafficking does not interfere with persons who consent or choose to be sold for sex.
Often, we hear stories about children who are victims of sexual abuse or exploitation, but they may not be victims of sex trafficking. Their parent, relative or another person may be sexually abusing them without engaging in the acts of “trafficking.”
It is important to know the difference so that we do not lose sight of the issues that plague actual victims of sex trafficking.
Unique to victims of Juvenile Urban Sex Trafficking (JUST) is that most of these victims are lured into sex trafficking through a boyfriend, classmates at school, persons they meet online or via “modeling” agencies and “music video” production companies who promise a life of fame, fortune and opportunity.
In most urban corridors, these girls are also “exotic dancers” or “strippers” who are forced to host parties and private events.
Unique to urban trafficking is their gang connections and home-based sex parties, black market pornography and videos as well as their forced services as drug mules.
When you think that your child is in school, he/she may be forced to host a sex party within the community.
When you think your husband or significant other is at work or at a conference on business travel, he may be accompanied by a victim of sex trafficking or may be in attendance at a sex party hosted at a hotel, country club or private residence.
Dispelling the Myths
Some of these young women and children are forced to work in the retail industry to help secure identity information (credit card, bank accounts, licenses and passport information, etc). This information is used in identity theft and forgery rings.
At first glance, these victims are more likely to be prosecuted for prostitution or related offenses (forgery, theft, identity theft, possession of drugs or intent to sell drugs, gang activity, entering a jail or prison with drugs, etc).
After their arrest, most of them are locked into this lifestyle due to fear and duress, but also because of the collateral consequences associated with being arrested or prosecuted for prostitution or prostitution related offense.
The victimization continues and is perpetual. These victims of sexual enslavement suffer a loss of housing, healthcare, education, employment, maintenance and support (HEMS). Most are denied programs and services.
Many of them suffer from sexually transmitted diseases/STD, HIV/AIDS, miscarriages and abortions as well as from drug and alcohol abuse. Young women and children suffer from vaginal and anal tearing and many will never live a normal life after these traumatic experiences.
Victims of sex trafficking are modern day slaves.
Hidden in Plain Sight
Urban Trafficking victims are solicited or sold via “bookings” on social media sites like former Back page, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tinder, Yellow, and private websites. Some are sold at school by classmates and boyfriends with a simple text or email to meet them at a hotel where a “John” anxiously awaits to suffer them abuse.
In fact, before Congress is a bill to amend the Communication Decency Act a/k/a CDA 230. This bipartisan legislation – The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act – is targeting online companies who prey upon selling women and children in America for profit and is intended to ensure justice for victims. Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, is one of the Bill sponsors.
Some of the common statements or stereotypes of identifying victims of sex trafficking include, but is not limited to, they are poor, uneducated, foster children, dysfunctional family, victims of abuse, poor performance in school, at-risk youth or system involved youth, and persons who suffer from mental or emotional issues. These factors represent a portion of victims who are more likely to enter the juvenile delinquency or deprivation system. However, they are not true of the majority of the victims.
Therefore, the “Power of the Ps” (Parents, Pastors, Principals, Police, Prosecutors, Prison) must know the signs. Each of these persons has an opportunity to identify and help a victim.
Some of the things that the Ps can do to identify, curtail, or end victimization include, but are not limited to observing school attendance, employment opportunities and work schedule, interacting with and meeting new friends and acquaintances, monitoring social media and cellular telephone activity, and verifying travel activity to and from school, work or play (school events, church, extra-curricular activity).
Monitor birthday party celebrations, slumber party, or events requiring your child to be accompanied by persons 16 or older who drive or even travel via public transportation; and monitor interactions with family, friends and members of the church community. Recognize new color schemes in your children (hair, clothing, school material or at home).
Certain colors draw attention to gang affiliations. Observe telephone records and emails. Observe multiple telephone usage. Tattoos were once a sign, but many new victims do not have them. Some will have a simple letter or ring tatted on their finger, hand, or behind their ear.
You may have a child in your home, school or community who is a victim in plain sight.
The experiences of sex trafficking victims from urban corridors are different than traditional domestic or international victims. From recruitment to forced sexual victimization, to their attempts to escape and their efforts to seek justice, these victims remain hidden in plain sight.
For more information on this subject, please visit www.FemaleNOTFeemale.com
If you suspect a person to be a victim of sex trafficking, please call 911 immediately. Then, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).