When a person sits down to indulge in some porn, it is doubtful that they think about the realities off screen. Girls seem to be enjoying themselves, even relishing in the scandalous, sometimes violent, action. Yet as this article describes, the actresses in pornographic films are rarely there entirely by choice. Human trafficking pervades such a multifariousness of industries… pornography is not exempt in the slightest.


by: Fight The New Drug

“To viewers, pornography can appear a fantasy world of pleasure and thrills. To those who create and participate in making pornography, however, their experiences are often flooded with drugs, disease, slavery, trafficking, rape and abuse.

I got the &*%$ kicked out of me …. Most of the girls start crying because they’re hurting so bad …. I couldn’t breathe. I was being hit and chocked. I was really upset and they didn’t stop. They kept filming. [I asked them to turn the camera off] and they kept going. –Regan Starr [1]

The pornography industry works hard to keep up a glamorous image, but behind the camera is a reality of violence, drugs, and human trafficking.

With some editing and off-screen coercion, pornographers can make it look like what’s happening onscreen is being enjoyed. But the un-cut version is a different story. Porn actors are constantly threatened and emotionally and verbally abused by agents and directors to force them into doing things they don’t want to do. [2]

“You’re viewed as an object and not as a human with a spirit,” wrote Jersey Jaxin, a former porn star that left the industry in 2007. “People do drugs because they can’t deal with the way they are being treated. Seventy five percent [of porn performers] and rising are using drugs. Have to numb themselves. There are specific doctors in this industry that if you go in for a common cold they’ll give you Vicodin, Viagra, anything you want because all they care about is the money. You are a number. You’re bruised. You have black eyes. You’re ripped. You’re torn. You have your insides coming out.” [3]

Not only do pornographers crop out the severe physical and emotional pain actors experience, but in many cases they also hide the fact that some “performers” aren’t given any choice at all.

Part of the lie porn producers want customers to buy into is that porn is legitimate entertainment made by glamorous people who are doing it because it’s what they want; it’s OK for the user to enjoy it because the people they’re watching seem to be enjoying it. What they don’t say is that some of those people look like they’re having a good time because behind the scenes they have a gun pointed at their head. And if they stop smiling, it will go off. [4]

Obviously, human trafficking is an underground business, making firm statistics hard to come by. But the facts in cases that come to light are chilling. For example, in 2011, two Miami men were found guilty of spending five years luring women into a human trafficking trap. They would advertise modeling roles, then when women came to try out, they would drug them, kidnap them, rape them, videotape the violence, and sell it to pornography stores and businesses across the country. [5]

That same year a couple in Missouri was charged with forcing a mentally handicapped girl to produce porn for them by beating, whipping, suffocating, electrocuting, drowning, mutilating, and choking her until she agreed. One of the photos they forced her to make ended up on the front cover of a porn publication owned by Hustler Magazine Group. [6]

Those cases are just the tip of the iceberg; many more like them exist, and for each victim discovered, countless others suffer in silence. [7]

Still others are victimized by being forced into prostitution.

Given that pornography makes prostitution and sexually exploiting others look normal, [8] it’s not surprising that there’s a strong association between pornography use and going to prostitutes. [9] In fact, men who go to prostitutes are twice as likely to have watched a porn film in the last year compared to the general population. [10] It’s also not surprising that when these customers show up, many come ready with porn images in hand to show the women they’re exploiting—many of which are human trafficking victims controlled by pimps—what they’ll be forced to do. [11]

And they’re not the only ones using porn as an illustration. “Pimps and traffickers use pornography to initiate their … victims into their new life of sexual slavery,” says Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, a former UN representative and a senior fellow at the Beverley LaHaye Institute. Through exposure to porn, these victims “get hardened to accept the inevitable and learn what is expected of them.” [12]

In a study of 854 women in prostitution across nine countries, 49% said that porn had been made of them while they were in prostitution, and 47% said they had been harmed by men who had either forced or tried to force their victims to do things the men had seen in porn. [13]

In the end, porn fuels prostitution; and porn and prostitution are the products the sex trade exists to deliver. [14]”

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Stubborn Cycle of Runaways Becoming Prostitutes

September 15, 2013
Victoria, 20, shown outside Covenant House, a West 41st Street shelter, became a prostitute at 18. “I was so innocent,” she said.

At the age of 14, Ann ran away from home. She had been living with her aunt and uncle in the South Bronx, a situation made untenable, she said, because she was frequently being raped by her cousin.

With very few options on the street, Ann soon accepted an offer of housing from a man whom she began to think of as her boyfriend. Her view of him would change with each beating he administered, and the many paid sexual liaisons she would have for him.

He would take her to Manida Street, a section of the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx that is notorious for prostitution.

“I would go out there and I would give him the money,” said Ann, who is now 25, and, fearing retaliation, spoke on the condition that only her middle name be published. “And he would beat me up.”

Her experience is not unusual. The Justice Department has estimated that about 450,000 children run away from home every year and that one-third of teenagers on the street will be approached by a pimp within 48 hours of leaving home.

The situation can be particularly acute in New York City, where there are an estimated 3,800 homeless children but only 250 city-financed youth shelter beds.

In June, the City Council held a hearing to consider granting more funds for services for runaway and homeless youths; the Council ultimately decided against the request.

The money from the state that is funneled into the budget for beds and services for runaway and homeless youths has been cut more than half since 2008, to about $745,000.

A joint study released in May by Covenant House and Fordham University, which interviewed nearly 200 randomly selected runaway and homeless youths in New York City over the last year, found that nearly one in four participants either had been victims of trafficking or had exchanged sex for basic needs like food and shelter.

Of those participants, almost half reported doing so because they had no safe place to sleep.

“The stories look very, very similar. Depressingly similar,” said Rachel Lloyd, the founder and chief executive of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, or GEMS, an organization that provides services to youths in the city who are caught up in trafficking or otherwise exploited.

“There has been trauma, abuse, neglect, something that is going on,” Ms. Lloyd said. And there was an intervention or a failed intervention. Then they meet a boy, a man, a friend.

“It’s, ‘I ran away, I was sleeping on the trains for two days, I met a guy. He was nice to me. He said he’d take care of me,’ ” explained Ms. Lloyd, herself a former prostitute. “Then adult predators take advantage of them, very quickly.”

Even when children make it to the shelters, there is no guarantee that a bed will be available; Covenant House turns away 200 to 400 children each month. And the pimps know that those who tend to approach Covenant House may be vulnerable.

“Kids tell us, ‘I was down the block and this guy offered me a place to stay,’ ” said Simone Thompson, director of operations at Covenant House.

A pizza shop at Ninth Avenue and 41st Street, about a block from the shelter, she said, is a popular target area. On West 41st Street, between the pizza shop and the shelter, there is a block of scaffolding that the Covenant House staff tells children to avoid, because it is another hot spot for pimps on the prowl for new recruits.

“You just don’t know who is who,” Ms. Thompson said.

Victoria, 20, sat quietly in an office in Covenant House, near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Wearing a pink knee-length skirt, a denim jacket, low heels and a cross pendant, she looked like someone on the way to church, rather than someone who had spent the last four years homeless, on and off the street, and the better part of the last two years working as a prostitute.

Falling into the child welfare system when she was 16, Victoria was staying at a group shelter on Staten Island when she met a man on the street. He was nice to her, he offered her a place to stay and they started dating, she said.

“I was so innocent,” Victoria said, “I fell right into the trap.” For the next year and a half, this was her pimp.

“Out of 10 girls, I would say nine girls do it or have done it. That’s how many girls. Even here,” she said, referring to Covenant House.

“They feel like it’s the only option they have.”

Adriana, 23, grew up in the South Bronx and started working as a prostitute when she was 14, after running away from home. Her stepfather had been raping her since she was 11, she said, and he would leave money next to the bed every time so that she would keep it a secret.

When she first ran away, she would sleep at the “trap house,” a neighborhood spot where people would sell drugs and hang out. That was when the man who would become her pimp started talking to her about working for him, Adriana said in an interview.

“He gave me a place to sleep, he gave me food,” she said. “At that point, that’s all that mattered.”

Adriana stayed with her pimp, on and off, for the next six years.

For those unfamiliar with the dynamics of prostitution, it might be puzzling that these women do not leave their violent pimps. In a recent case that Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, brought against a father and son running a sex trafficking ring, women who worked for the pimps testified on their behalf.

“It’s the Stockholm syndrome,” said Linda Poust Lopez, now a judge in Bronx Criminal Court, who as a longtime Legal Aid lawyer often defended “commercially sexually exploited” girls and young women.

“This is the only ‘love’ they’ve ever known. Quote-unquote love.”

Ann, Adriana and Victoria are no longer with their pimps, although their time spent with them is marked by pregnancies and, for two of the women, arrests.

Adriana now works at GEMS as a mentor to those who have been commercially sexually exploited. On a recent afternoon at the organization’s headquarters — the location and clients’ full names cannot be used, because of the staff’s obligation to protect clients from retaliation by pimps — Adriana spoke of her concern about the public perception of teenage prostitutes.

“I think people need to realize that it’s not a choice that we make. It’s life situations that cause us to do the things we need to do to survive,” she said.

“I feel like people don’t stop to realize that these are girls. No one wakes up and says, ‘I want to be a prostitute today.’ ”

Sex Trafficking: A Play

Human Trafficking: A Play on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors

By: Izzy Ullmann

 (Girl walks in the door)

Father: (aggressively) Where have you been?

Girl: Out with my friends.

Father: Doing what?

 Girl: Just hanging out at the mall, dad.

 Father: How am I supposed to know that’s what you were doing?! Dressed the way you are, you might as well have been at a strip club! Cover yourself up.

 Girl: (looks down at too- short dress) (aside) The only reason I am wearing the clothes that I am wearing is because my parents have refused to buy me anything new. This is the same dress that they bought me in 5th grade! That was years ago. But they say there’s not enough money for new clothes. Not enough money? There’s enough money for them to buy themselves those drugs that they keep hidden away in the closet. But not enough to buy me a dress that fits right?

 Girl: Dad, if only you’d buy me a new dress, I wouldn’t need to wear this one to the mall.

 Father: (voice raises) Who are you to tell me what to buy? I bought you this house and the food that you eat. Now leave me the hell alone!

 Girl: (aside) This has been going on for months, years. My parents only pay me any attention when they want to accuse me. Otherwise, I’m like some bug that’s washed up into the house. Well, today I walked away… ran away, I guess you can say. I have endured the pressure and the distrust and those scowling looks for too long. Every time I walk in the front door of my own home, I felt judged. My parents– they assume I have been out with the wrong boy or wearing the wrong clothes or whatever. I just can’t take it anymore. When I left, I didn’t know where I was going to go. I just wanted out.

 (walks down the street, looking around)

 Girl: I walked and walked. It got darker and I got more and more nervous cuz honestly, I had no idea where I was going. After a little while, I saw that a car was following me. Some guy.. I don’t know. Who knew what he wanted… After a couple blocks, he pulled up along beside me. He stuck his head out the window. He was..  I don’t know. 28, 29. But pretty cute.

 Man: Hey baby. Someone’s lookin fine tonight. Whatchu doin walking out here all by yourself? A pretty girl like you should be inside! Look at those sparklin eyes! Why do they look so sad?

 Girl: (aside) Man it felt good to be noticed. He called me pretty. He said I looked fine. He noticed my eyes! Do you know how long its been since anyone’s commented on my eyes? Too long, that’s forsure. So I told him. I just let it all out.

 (to Man): I ran away from home. I can’t handle the rents anymore, you know? Always on my back about everything… I was outta there.

 Man: Aww suga, that’s too bad. How about you come inside and I’ll go get you an ice cream. Ice cream can always cheer a person up!

 Girl: (aside) I had nowhere to go and nothing better to do, so I got in that car and we drove to Dairy Queen. We ate ice cream and talked for hours. He was so nice. He told me I was beautiful and special. He told me I didn’t need my parents– that I could be my own person. It felt amazing. Especially cuz I was only 13. I liked getting all this attention from an older guy. I felt sexy, you know?

 Girl: That night, I stayed at his place. He gave me my own room and it was great. Every day, he would take me to do things. We would see movies and go bowling and stuff… He told me he loved me. He held me in his arms. He kissed me. After a couple weeks, we had sex. It hurt a bit but I thought it would make him love me even more. And it seemed to. I stopped having time to see my friends and I sure didn’t see a peep of my family. But that was fine. I liked being with him. He was so nice to me. I hadn’t felt this much attention in years. I couldn’t get enough of it. But then, things started to change a little.

 Man: Baby, I need help paying the rent. You sit on your ass all day and don’t bring in any money. You gotta get out there and start makin some dough or else we’ll be out on the streets, beggin for food. Tonight, you gotta put on this dress (hands shorts, sparkly dress) and you’re going to get out on the street and get yourself some customers.

 Girl: (in shock) Wh-wh-what kind of customers?

 Man: (sneers) You know exactly what kind of customers I’m talking about. And don’t be shy about it. I’m expecting $200 by tomorrow morning.

 Girl: No! I’m not going to be a prostitute for you! That’s sick!

 Man: (slaps girl) You’re going to do what I tell you. I’ve given you a home. I’ve fed you. I’ve taken care of you. The least you can do is make us some money.

 Girl: (aside) Well, when he put it like that, how could I say no? I was indebted to him… It was true. I mean, he had taken care of me. And I guess we did need the money, right? But I still tried to protest…

 Girl: NO! You can’t tell me what to do! This is my body!

 Man: No.. that’s where you have it wrong. This. right here. This is MY body.

 Girl: (aside) And he raped me. He threw me down and raped me.

 Man: (when he’s done) Now put on this dress. And go outside. And make yourself useful. I don’t want to see your face until the morning. And if there is no money in your purse, don’t even think about coming back.

 Girl: (aside) In shock, I walked outside. I couldn’t believe what was happening. This didn’t really feel right, but I couldn’t let him down. I had to impress him. I didn’t want him to hate me. I loved him. I stood by those cars driving by in that teeny pink dress and stared at them, open mouthed, no clue what to do. And the whole time, I could feel him standing a couple feet behind me, watching me. An hour passed like that.

 Man: (stomps up to her) Girl, what you think you’re doin? You gotta wave at them. Do a little shimmy. Show em a little somethin’ somethin’. How you think you gonna get anyone like this?

 Girl: (nervously shimmies boobs and gives a weak wave… a car pulls up)

 Guy: (leans out window) How much?

 Girl: (looks terrified, and turns to Man questioningly)

 Man: A hundred.

 Girl: (stammering) A hundred.

 Guy: Get in. (drives away with girl)

 Girl: (aside) It continued like that for about a year. I struggled for a while, fighting back when he would try to teach me a new technique or whatever. Sometimes he would beat me. Real hard. I have bruises all over my stomach, my arms, my neck. Sometimes he would rape me. Sometimes he would have his buddies over and they would all rape me. None of it felt real. But it all felt real. I didn’t like it. But I didn’t really have another choice. Even if I ran away, where would I go? Where COULD I go? I had no money– that all went to him. No way in hell my family would take me back! And I hadn’t talked to a friend in over a year… I was stuck.

The Seemingly Unexpected Survivor

When we think about human trafficking, our minds jump to people in the ghetto. We think of poor children in Africa and Cambodia. We think about overly sexualized women in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. We think about the kids sitting in the back of the room, with bruises and welts, who are failing out of their classes.

But we don’t think of San Jose natives. We don’t think of that girl who’s at the top of her high school class. We don’t think of the qualified student, going on to UC Berkeley. We don’t think of fathers selling their only child for sex. We don’t think of mothers taking photos of their daughter for advertising.

When we think about human trafficking, we don’t think about girls like Minh Dang. But she had to think about human trafficking her entire life.

Very Young Girls

ImageVery young girls enter the sex trade all over the United States. And by very young, I mean VERY YOUNG. The average age is 13… but there are girls being pimped from the age of 12 and younger. It is impossible to say there is a single reason, because there isn’t one.For Shaneiqua**, a mere 12 years old, being flirted with by an older man felt flattering. She was walking alone at night. A car was following her. A guy called her sexy… she FELT sexy. She felt good. It was cool to have an older man be interested in her. It escalated. She spent time with him, they went to movies together, had sex. He told her loved her. She believed him. She wanted that love. She craved that love. So when he told her that he would love her more if she started bringing in some money, if she starting prostituting, she couldn’t say no. She protested, but there was no going back. After the first time, she says “my whole body just felt dead.”And that was only the beginning. Soon enough, she got fed up with it… with “the life”.  She just wanted to be a kid, to live her OWN life, not this one of subjugation and sexual exploitation. She tried running away, but he found her. “You’re shitty. You’re a bitch,” she was told before he raped her anally. It was at this moment when she released her hope and her perception that she could have a better life than this. “At this point in time I felt this was his body,” Shaneiqua says, “whatever he felt like should go inside it or happen to it would.” She makes money, but it all goes to him. She cannot carry a quarter in her pocket without him knowing.

This girl is like so many others. She is called a prostitute. She is called a slut, a whore, a hoe. She is not recognized as a victim, but as a parasite on her society. She is arrested for her actions. She is incarcerated for selling her body on the street, when, in fact, her actions are so intrinsically influenced by the pressure of her pimp. He is a man she has grown to love. She does not think she can leave him. She feels indebted to him. She yearns to satisfy him and to please him. Her story is repeated across America.

Slavery was not ended by the Emancipation Proclamation signed 150 years ago. It is not restricted to Thailand or Cambodia or Amsterdam or Croatia or Africa. Slavery exists around the corner. It exists on the streets around your sport’s stadium. It exists in that club on the outskirts of town. It exists in that ‘shabby’ hotel. It exists in the local nail salon and in that restaurant you love. It exists in the fields where your strawberries came from and in the factory where your shirt was produced. Slavery is everywhere. And it needs to be stopped.

**Shaneiqua is a girl whose story was highlighted in the documentary, Very Young Girls about the commercial sexual exploitation in New York City.