Let me first just say how brave you are to be reading about this. It takes courage to learn about the ‘messy’ in our world. Firsthand, I can tell you that it is freeing and empowering to have knowledge about this topic. It arms you with information you need in order to keep our world and our children safe. We are thrilled to announce that our next Abo U class this summer will be an entire day of learning about sexual exploitation, how to spot a predator, how to protect your family from such people, and how to teach a child at EVERY age about unsafe people without instilling fear. Register for updates and announcements for class dates here. Again—this is a difficult topic to digest. But you and your family can live free from fear with just a little education.
So… on with post 2, in response to many questions after the Cleveland rescue:
Captivity and Control: What does captivity look like for human trafficking victims?
Once they are in relationship with a recruiter or trafficker, the trafficker knows it is important to keep them under their control and to make them think she is not in captivity. While they sometimes do this through physical chains and enslavement, they also use much mind control.
Psychological Manipulation! (Love!) Many truly believe their trafficker is a lover. He/she buys her nice things and makes her feel special. In one of the many manuals teaching people how to traffic others, a pimp remarked: “She loved to shop so much that I could manipulate her with shopping”. Trauma bonding and Stockholm Syndrome are at the heart of why some victims never leave—and why many return to abusers. That same pimp also coaches traffickers to look for a weakness:
“ most… have low self esteem for a reason. A pimp [trafficker] looks for that weakness, and if it isn’t on the surface, s/he brings it out of them. It doesn’t matter what her weaknesses are, as long as they have them. Then he uses those weaknesses to his advantage… It is the best trait you can find in someone you want to control. If you can’t find one, you have to create one. … tear someone’s ego down to nothing before they will start looking to you for salvation…. Show them it’s your program that takes them from darkness to hope… you are their hero—even if the weakness you rescue them from is actually one you created”.
Force! One girl a few weeks ago said that her escort trafficker only used violence when she wasn’t submissive—so she avoided the violence by being compliant. Other forceful ways to keep someone in captivity that we have seen in our town include cinder block cells, basements, and yes—ropes. Traumatic Brain Injury is common in our ladies, as is PTSD from all of the violence. I can’t stomach writing much more about this, but this article about one of the Cleveland girls illuminates the reality of abuse.
Drugs! Addiction is a common way to enforce control and captivity. Sometimes the young women have no addiction, and through coercion or as a way to numb the pain, they will partake in drugs provided to them by the trafficker. Another pimp coaches the traffickers to find a highly addictive, expensive drug, so that she won’t escape.
Shame! Shame is powerful. Many women feel as though they have no worth outside of who this person has created them to be. Shame is instilled early on in unsafe relationships, and at doma, we think it is critical to parent and to love others in a way that is free from shaming them. If you’ve said to your children in frustration, ‘why in the world did you do that?’, you might shame without recognizing it. (We will be sharing more about parenting without shame at our one day Abo U.) From day one with our ladies, the team of professionals AND our volunteers are taught how to love without judgment and to redirect feelings of shame toward self-compassion and ‘whole-heartedness’.
Harriet Tubman said she would have freed more slaves if only they knew they were slaves! Many of our ladies don’t recognize themselves as victims until much time has passed away from their predator.
When asked how they felt at CATCH court last Thursday, our amazing survivors can identify with the girls who were rescued in Cleveland last week:
happy grateful, blessed, confident, grateful to be back, anxious, tired, determined, uncertain, feels good, clean and sober, inspired to be there today, grateful, blessed, cautious, capable, stressed, relaxed, excited, blessed, blessed, anxious, very grateful, determined, fearful, inspired, anticipating, excited, blessed, excited, tired, irritable, excited, anxious, faithful, mixed emotions, worried, , desperate, hopeful, free…