Dear Ms. Ling,
As a survivor of more than ten years of human trafficking in America that began as a minor, I could not help but reach out and voice my opinion on your latest episode of This is Life.
My abuse began in the strip clubs and continued all the way through the streets, to casinos, to brothels, and back and forth hundreds of times. I personally worked at both of the brothels you chose to visit for your latest episode of This is Life and have met the owner, Dennis Hoff, on more than one occasion.
My trafficker would send his victims to work in the brothels as a form of punishment and/or when they had been arrested too many times and needed to continue making money for him without getting arrested again.
Not only am I able to personally debunk your quotes on the women being able to come and go as they pleased and being able to turn down customers, but your response surfaced many memories for me that I would like to share with you.
Ms. Ling, I was one of the few women who actually had a car at the Love Ranch and the Bunny Ranch. I distinctly remember how difficult it was to leave the premises of both locations even to run errands like going to the bank to deposit money and the obvious explicit criticism from the “house moms,” Suzette, for example, who I worked directly for during my time there. I am not sure if you found out on your publicized visit to the Bunny Ranch, but all of the rooms are wired for sound, which to most people the obvious reason is for the safety of the women right? Well, there is an ulterior motive to that as well. They listen to all negotiations to ensure that the women are not “blowing calls” as they say, or turning down customers they should be saying yes to. As much as they like to say you can turn down customers, that simply is not true. If you are not doing business to the degree that they think you should, you are kicked out of the house or moved to the lower performing Love Ranch, on probation, essentially.
If sex work is so satisfying, then why would women want to pay 50% of their money for safety and security, as you say? Are these fine upstanding citizens that buy sex that dangerous? The answer is “yes, unfortunately.” I cannot count the number of times I have physically fought with these “great” American citizens that choose to buy sex from prostituted people and how many times I have been raped because I was too scared to fight back.
In addition, if this work is so satisfying then why are the majority of the sex workers at the brothels high and strung-out on drugs? Why is there not mandatory drug testing that goes along with the mandatory weekly pap smears and HIV checks? Did you know that a woman that tests positive for HIV and has been prostituted can be charged with attempted manslaughter? This strikes me as entirely ironic, a woman can be charged with attempted murder for possibly spreading a disease that was given to her in her line of work. Additionally, just as ironic is the fact they are encouraged to get high and drunk so that they stay in a blissful state of compliance and in lala-land to continue making money for the establishment.
What about the countless women there like me, Ms. Ling, who are being trafficked inside the brothel? The person who got me accepted into the brothel was the bottom (a female put in charge by the trafficker to supervise the others and enforce rules) that I was trafficked with and who was victimized herself. How many women in there have traffickers outside, in addition to Dennis Hoff? In your investigative reporting, did you ever ask why certain women were chosen to be on your show? Why couldn’t you talk to all of them? Who made that decision? If these women are so empowered as sex workers, then why couldn’t you have access to all of them? Because the trafficked ones know they would be “in trouble” for speaking to you.
Your investigative reporting missed a crucial element because, you see, traffickers use many avenues to sell their victims, including legal brothels. Where there is an avenue to make money, corruption will follow. Once again, our voices have been kept silent. And through this silence it appears that you, Ms. Ling, are promoting and contributing to the problem of human trafficking.
Rebekah Charleston is a mother, honors college student, consultant, and advocate for victims of human trafficking. She is passionate about this issue because at the age of 17 she ran away and became a victim of human trafficking for more than ten years. She had multiple traffickers and was not able to escape until the federal authorities finally became involved. As a survivor, Rebekah has wisdom to impart and a story that will help you understand the issues, as well as shedding light on what happens here in America. Rebekah’s story is one of hope and restoration. She has allowed God to turn her tragedy into triumph and is truly a voice to the voiceless.