When most people hear this term, they tend to envision a young child, kidnapped, handcuffed to a radiator, locked in a room somewhere with a gross, sweaty, pedophile showing up to pay the trafficker and have his way with the young child in the room.
When I tell people that I am a survivor of human trafficking, they tend to say, “Oh like the movie Taken?” Because I MUST have been pulled out by one leg from underneath my bed in order to be forced into prostitution.
While those scenarios may absolutely take place, that is not the most COMMON scenario of trafficking here in America. We are not in Thailand or Cambodia, or Nigeria or any other third world country. If we are expecting to see sex trafficking the same way it looks in those countries, we will definitely miss it. As a culture, we need to start portraying clearly, what trafficking looks like in a developed, modern country like America.
So the question is… if we’re not identifying it, does that mean we’re fueling it? Here are three ways you can unknownly be perpetuating sex trafficking right within your own home:
1. Glamorizing Commercial Sex
- To glamorize commercial sex, we first need to identify commercial sex: Pornography, Exotic Dancing, Prostitution. The majority of which objectify human beings, and make them an object for sale or personal use.
- Glamorizing these industries only fuels that stigma that using people is acceptable, which encourages the demand and I don’t really need to explain Supply and Demand, do I?
- How do you glamorize it? Well, since glamorous is defined as “charming, fascinatingly attractive, especially in a mysterious way, full of excitement and adventure.” If you are portraying the sex industry as any of the above, you are setting yourself or someone else up for a game of Russian Roulette.
2. Embracing “Cultural Norms”
- It is not funny or cool or normal to dress up like a Pimp and Ho for Halloween, to use terms like “pimpin'” when describing something. It is not normal to visit a strip club for your 18th birthday or a bachelor party with “prostitutes” and “strippers” for your pre-wedding celebration (thank you Hangover). Somehow in our American Cultural, these items have become standard, expected and normal.
- Parents, when you turn the other cheek and think “Oh, boys will be boys” or “It’s just what’s in now” you are telling your children that it perfectly acceptable to behave, act and think that way.
3. Using Demeaning Terms
- Anytime I hear the term “prostitute” I cringe; let alone “hooker.” Even more appalling is when used as an adjective to describe a child: Child Prostitute or Teen Hooker.
- This is seen not only when people talk but a lot in the media. If we want to make a change, when we read or hear that term used we can correct that person simply by saying something like, “Do you mean prostituted children? Victims of trafficking or forced prostitution?” You may even feel led to email that journalist, reporter or news station/paper to help see the problem in placing the blame on the person which supports misconceptions.
- Pimpin’ has somehow replaced the word “cool” in our country and this needs to change.
Parents if you have thought “but I have sons” so somehow sex trafficking won’t affect you, think again! Not only can boys be victims of exploitation, but every buyer of sex was at one point a son. If you are accepting and laughing along with your sons about that teen hooker when your son describes his new phone as ‘pimp’—you are setting up your son to become a buyer or worse a seller. Let’s change the culture!
Rebecca Bender is a nationally recognized and awarded expert on domestic sex trafficking. After escaping nearly six years of both labor and sex trafficking, she emerged as a Survivor Leader, providing consulting, training and speaking with some of the largest anti-trafficking groups and government agencies in the country, including FBI, Homeland Security , and former president Jimmy Carter. After writing her first book, Roadmap to Redemption, she founded the Rebecca Bender Initiative.