by Roger C
In the late 1700’s, a young man named William Wilberforce became a Member of Parliament (MP) at the age of 21. Four years later, he became a believer in Jesus Christ and began to wrestle with a decision that would change his world. William didn’t know if he could serve God better in politics or the ministry. After seeking advice from pastor John Newton, he decided to remain in politics where he dedicated his next 60 years as a leading abolitionist against the British slave trade. Understand that England had two centuries of involvement in global trading and colonization. The British empire touched every continent and the triangle trade produced 80% of their foreign income. European goods were shipped to Africa in exchange for slaves at a price of 3 pounds each, then trafficked to South and North America where they were sold for 20 pounds worth of rum, sugar and other goods. The cover narratives of the times were that “there lives are made better.” The reality is that 12 million Africans were trafficked and 2 million died on the journey to “new adventures.” Money corrupts, but men like Wilberforce were willing to take a stand for righteousness and had the perseverance to fight for the rest of their lives to see justice and equality.
Wilberforce realized that before Parliament would change laws, the minds of people had to first be changed. One of his abolition partners, a man named Thomas Clarkson, interviewed over 20,000 sailors who worked in the slave ships to collect information. He gathered equipment used in the trade, like handcuffs, thumb screws, leg shackles and branding irons. He traveled over 35,000 miles on horseback supporting abolition efforts and gave tours of slave ships to help change he minds of those who would fight and those who were blind. We are not that different today. Let me unpack the truth behind the lies.
Children are already vulnerable from their age and immaturity, but kids who have been abused or neglected are prime targets for traffickers. 1 in 3 kids who run away will be pulled into trafficking within 48 hours. 100,000 kids are sold in the US each year, and the average age of children entering the sex trade is 12 to 14. The kids are being conditioned at earlier and earlier ages. If they “find their dad’s stash” on the computer or in print, it impacts their brains for life. They become prematurely sexual, and begin to think about and experiment in ways that are dangerous. There has been a marked increase in child-on-child sexual abuse as kids act out scenes they have been exposed to seeing.
Kids today already have greater issues with body image. Porn increases the pressure by presenting images of how they should look and act. The cultural obsession with women’s beauty teaches girls that their value lies in whether or not they can sexually please men. We also live in a world that values celebrity culture. People follow people who produce no noticeable value to society other than to be personalities. These behaviors are grooming kids for online or offline sexual exploitation. Young girls imitate this with social media postings of selfies and face increasingly sexually aggressive men. The grooming to push their boundaries often begins by taking the next step of selling their images, then revealing more with each image, perhaps adding blackmail or extortion to the mix, or promises of fame and money. The lure of money and affirmation draws many girls into more than they planned and makes them “porn set ready” for traffickers eager to recruit them. Some are baited by “boyfriends” who suggest they take a trip together or to meet somewhere. When she arrives, she is forced to have sex with his friends or with her new customers that same night.
One child advocate said in regards to parents talking to their kids about these dangers that “8 is too late.” How sad, and true.
Women face similar influences. A high percentage of women are sexually abused as children, often sparked by porn influences. This experience can leave them filled with hopelessness, depression, and shame as they feel they have no value. The absence of fathers or abuse from fathers leads them to be susceptible to easy manipulation. Some girls become promiscuous to “find love” and attention they need. They are more likely to have mental health issues, like addiction, depression or suicide. 1 in 4 college women are reported to have been sexually assaulted. A documentary called “Liberated” gives testimony to the connections of aggressive men, vulnerable women and sexual assault. These women are more vulnerable to traffickers who can coerce them with promises of attention, clubs, clothes and drugs.
Many predators consider young teens to be “porn ready” because they are already hooked on sharing pictures of themselves, finding validation in the number of “likes” they receive, and a weak sense of morality in how much they are willing to share of themselves. Culture glamorizes a focus on an obsession with “personalities” and images of what “pretty” looks like. The explosion of messages to legitimize pornography leads young people to explore the dark internet in ways that form their sense of normalcy. Sexts are becoming commonplace among teens, and are just as quickly hacked and uploaded to porn sites without consent. As one trafficker commented, “all it takes is for someone to say “you can earn money instead of likes.” As another told, “It’s easy. I see a girl at the mall. I go up to her and say ‘You have beautiful eyes.’ If she smiles and says ‘Thanks,’ I leave her alone. But if she looks down and says, ‘No, I don’t,’ I know I’ve got her. The baby step from that vulnerable frame of mind to sharing nude pictures is very small, and the ease of coercion from a predator who can use extortion, blackmail and force to take advantage of the vulnerable is frightening.
Coercion & Control
We’ve mentioned the vulnerabilities of poverty, age, trauma, addictions, and brokenness that put women in places without good, healthy choices. Many are forced into sex work through coercion, trickery, violence, rape, blackmail, extortion, threats of legal action and worse. Once there, they face psychological brain-washing that is hard to understand. In the 1970’s we learned about ‘Stockholm Syndrome” where prisoners and kidnap victims begin to bond with their captors. Women who are trafficked are often immediately raped or beaten to begin the process of breaking their will to resist and making them totally compliant. Many already have low self esteem issues, shame and believe they don’t have much worth, other than sexually pleasing men, so they quickly fall into this new structure.
They often meet basic needs of runaways for food, shelter, clothing and structure to quickly absorb them into a new life of abuse. Others are wowed with illusions of fame, clubs, clothes and a party lifestyle. The methods are straight out of the domestic violence “power wheel” of control techniques, including intimidation; emotional abuse; isolation; denying, blaming, and minimizing, sexual abuse; physical abuse; using privileges; economic abuse; coercion and threats. The setup begins with vulnerability and predators who take advantage of that basic need for love and attention to fuel their gain, and they quickly shift to controlling their behavior, information, thoughts and emotions. This primes them for further abuse and degradation.
Once victims are drawn into sex work, porn is used as a “tool” to train young children and women so that they will “know” what to do in performing sex acts. It’s used to coerce women by filming them without their consent and uploading videos to porn sites to shame or blackmailing them to remain. Users often experiment with what they have viewed, much of which is trending towards greater violence and abuse. Porn viewers can’t distinguish between trafficked women, children, prostitution and porn stars. Watching porn makes viewers “long distance johns.”
The vulnerabilities that make these women easy prey also keeps them in the work. It also lessens their bargaining power to set boundaries on what they will and will not do. They face pressure from the producers, the photographers, and the handlers to do increasingly risky behavior. The process of grooming them to push their boundaries may have begun with sharing teen selfies followed by requests for nude selfies; now it is for engaging in sex with multiple men or violence. One disturbing trend that is used to control women is strangulation. It leaves no marks, gives victims a fear of death and is hard to prove. It’s also becoming more common in mainstream porn. Fans add to the pressure to move from video to physical contact as stalkers who pressure the women to act out their fantasies with them.
Once in the business, women are pressured to remain as long as they make money for their handlers. The mental state of women after years of prolonged and coercive persuasion results in a shift in their identity. They begin to believe lies like “it’s better to get paid for sex that to do it for free,” or “this is as good as my life will get so I should just make be best of it.” Attempts to escape are often foiled by very crafty traffickers who know how to find them and bring them back, often along with physical abuse. Distrust of law enforcement and bonding to their traffickers further keeps them embedded in the life. Those that do leave have a hard time adjusting to freedom because of the high level of dependence they faced. Having been told what to do for everything, they find it challenging to cope with life. Furthermore, the images and videos that “prove” who they “really are” are online forever for all the world to see and judge, further deepening their felt shame.
One common lie men face, is that the women in prostitution, stripping or porn all “seem” to desire and want to please men. Some appear to enjoy themselves in pictures and videos, so the message that they are trafficked against their will doesn’t seem right. As mentioned, many do come from broken backgrounds and are seeking attention, but let me explain just how “broken” they are. Many women describe how they “split” themselves into the performer and their real self. It’s a defense mechanism to protect themselves from what they are having to do. This protects her innermost self and allows the alter ego to take the brunt of and resist men’s violence and abuse. The “public self” is expected to behave in a way that appeases male fantasies as a sex object, with no value other than his pleasure. They do this in a competitive environment, to earn followers and an income and to prevent being abused. The performer acts the part and sells the lie to men, built on the illusion that the feelings are there, that the woman is horny, and that there is something real that the man buys. But it’s all a fantasy. The fantasy doesn’t exist though. It’s merely a defense and survival mechanism to protect the woman’s inner self. She doesn’t allow herself to feel; she simply is surviving. How can anyone take advantage of this?
Their story is a story of women who were vulnerable, then fooled into believing a lie, then coerced into a life that feeds an illusion to us. Are you willing to begin to see the truth that women in the industry we feed on were not choosing sexual empowerment, but the were left with the worst of two choices. As I write, the Discovery Channel is pleased to host “Shark Week.” It’s a mix of messages that sharks are harmless wildlife, with stories of gruesome attacks. Sharks can smell blood in the water for miles they say. The vulnerabilities of these women and children is like blood in the water to the trafficking predators. They pick it up and move with the speed of sharks to snatch up their prey.
Begin with prayer. Prayer for the victims. Prayer for the traffickers and pimps. Prayer for the johns. Prayer for your involvement.
The story of sexual exploitation begins with vulnerability. It beings where force, fraud and coercion meets vulnerability ~ Jewell Baraka
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil ~ Proverbs 8:13
Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate ~ Amos 5:15
What do you do when those with all the power are hurting those with none? For starters, you stand up and tell the truth even when you’re all alone ~ movie North Country
A private faith that does not act in the face of oppression is no faith at all ~ William Wilberforce