What YOU Can Do

Don’t Become a Victim

It sounds kind of obvious, doesn’t it?

Most people don’t wake up expecting to become a victim of  human trafficking, assault, or rape. The thought barely crosses our mind during the daily routine of getting up, going to work, and going about our business. “That would never happen to me,” we say. But the thing is, we always overlook the obvious. It doesn’t matter how safe your neighborhood is, or if you always avoid dark alleys and shady businesses. You can become a victim in your own home, surrounded by family, talking to someone online you’ve never met.

Don't Become a Trafficking Victim | The Write Ending
photo by Jason Briscoe

If you don’t want to become a victim, you have to know how to avoid becoming one.

Take Kelly Heron, for example. Kelly was on a run through a park in Seattle, and when she stopped at a restroom, a convicted felon assaulted her. But because she had taken a self defense class only weeks earlier, she knew how to “put hard bones in soft, fleshy places.” She managed to fight off her attacker and escape with only scratches and bruises.

This woman was alert, informed, and bold when necessary.

Because of that, her story has a happy ending. Knowing self-defense can save your life, but even if you never have to use it, the confidence you acquire is enough to convince would-be attackers to steer clear of you. Yes, sex trafficking is very different than assault. But they are related in that perpetrators target the vulnerable. Those low-life, baser sort of men look for easy prey. They don’t want to overly exert themselves, and they don’t want to get hurt. If a target begins to act differently than expected, they will usually move on to an easier victim.

I believe every woman should take a self defense class in their lifetime, but the way traffickers usually acquire their victims is much more subtle. So subtle, in fact, you might not even realize their true intentions.

overhead shot of rose
photo by Jamie Street

It’s as easy as, “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”

What girl’s heart doesn’t thrill to be told she’s beautiful? Traffickers have honey-coated tongues and always know just the right thing to say. They show care, concern, and take the time to “groom” their targets by means of flattery, buying presents, gaining their trust, developing a relationship…until one day the pimp turns the tables and the victim is forced into prostitution, porn, or something equally horrific.

The sad reality is up to 90% of trafficking victims were abused long before they were forced to sell themselves. Traffickers are experts on sniffing out the vulnerable. Personal boundaries and self esteem are already broken down in these poor souls, and they don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like. They long for affirmation and affection, and for someone–anyone–to want them. Pimps are only too happy to dole out affection to achieve their goals.

How can you tell when romance is merely seduction?

You might not be able to tell at first. The warning signs come with the progression of the relationship–once you are emotionally and physically attached. The loving relationship gradually turns to one of manipulation. You’re asked to participate in activities against your will, such as going on “dates” with other men besides your “boyfriend,” who will pocket 100% of your earnings.  They play mind games and say,  “If you love me, you’ll do this”, or “just this once.” They might ask you to move to a different state, isolate you from family and friends, or phone you multiple times a day to ask where you are and who you’re with. Increasingly, they resort to violence to maintain control, and eventually you are in so deep that escape is almost impossible.

Fifty-one percent of pimps use romance to secure their victims, but this isn’t the only method. False job offers (such as modeling, singing, or dancing), offering food, lodging, or money, fake educational or travel opportunities, and abduction are also used.

How can you see through a job offer that isn’t legitimate?

At first glance, signs that say something like “call this number, get money,” but don’t specify the company or line of work, are possibly associated with trafficking. If you call the number and are told to meet in the parking lot of an abandoned building, you better abandon any thoughts of doing just that.

abandoned parking ramp
photo by Caleb Rogers

In applying for a job that is merely a front for human trafficking, you may have to go through several steps before something strikes you as fishy. Here are a few other red flags: the salary is too good to be true, the job sounds too easy, the work is outside your community or country, you are given vague information, promised a better life and a reliable job, asked to sign a contract you can’t understand,  charged a fee for documents, or are “loaned” the money to pay for those documents.

Educational and travel opportunities have many of the same warning signs, and lower income individuals or those who live in underdeveloped countries are especially vulnerable in this area. For them, what seems to be a chance to live the American dream can turn into a living, breathing, nightmare.

So, do your homework. If an agent drops names of major networks, television shows, or popular magazines, contact those companies directly to see if that agent is actually affiliated with them. If the agents tells you all travel expenses are paid, or that you’ll have free lodging in five-star hotels, makeovers, plastic surgery, etc., you can bet that on your first paycheck all these “free” items will have been deducted. You’ll owe more than you’ve made, and so begins the debt bondage.

In rarer cases, you may have to fight for your freedom.

With your bloodied fists. With sharp elbows, sharp teeth, sharp words–everything you’ve got. Only 11% of trafficking victims are abducted, but that’s 11% who possibly could have prevented becoming a slave. You don’t have to become one of the statistics. Even if they have a gun, it’s always better to run. If you get in the car with your abductor, your chances of escape and survival plummet drastically.

Self defense classes are an amazing empowerment tool. I’ve taken a course at my community college, and another a few years later at my local YMCA. Besides being a fun way to exercise and learn something new, self defense classes do something you wouldn’t expect: they make you see the world in a whole different light, and they give you confidence that defies those dark parking ramps.

women's martial arts class
photo by Mei Lin Wooden

This is about more than punches, pressure points, and escaping handholds and chokeholds. The most crucial aspect is being aware of your surroundings, which precautions to take to avoid being a target, and solving situations in a non-violent way if possible (i.e. running away as fast as you can). If you need any more motivation, around 1 in 5 women will become victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes. The good news is self defense training works! Model Mugging conducted a research project that surveyed 60,000 female students. After training, 98% avoided assaults altogether, and of those who were assaulted, 97%  successfully fought off their attacker.

There’s no need to live in fear.

Yes, we live in a world gone mad. But God has given us resources to fight slavery, to fight child exploitation, to fight abduction. Now that you know the main tactics of freedom’s enemies, you can learn to see through their nefarious schemes. We can end this madness, but there’s a deplorable lack of soldiers in this battle. Will you fight alongside me?

 

 

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

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