THE DARK WORLD OF CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING
Mark Linnhoefer – Adriana is 17 years old and has spent the last four years working as an illegal, underage prostitute for a total of four pimps – child-sex traffickers. She has recently revealed some very disturbing facts about the seedy underbelly of ‘the world’s oldest trade’ to CNN.
One of these facts is the branding modern-day sex workers receive by their pimps – moneybags, initials, phrases, names, barcodes, and so forth – to show that these women are “the property” of their traffickers. Adriana got such a tattoo when she was merely fourteen years old – it depicts the name of a pimp and runs right across her upper chest. This practice is the exact same that was used by slave owners of the past century to mark their slaves so as to visibly show ownership.
Adriana’s story is like so many others – she ran away from her single-parent home when she was thirteen and met some shady guy at a party who showed her the fancy things that girls working for him allegedly possess. These promises of wealth and freedom just for selling sex immediately hooked the young girl, and she soon found herself among the “working girls”.
The psychological bond that the pimps establish go so far that the girls are actually proud of those brandings, seeing them as a mark of deep commitment and total devotion, according to Lois Lee, founder of an organization that helps the victims of human trafficking. Adriana confirms this, saying that she “was proud to have it.” She goes on to describe the horrid lifestyle that becomes the norm for girls like her – extortion, threats, beatings, drugs, robberies, rapes.
“Eventually you get used to it,” says Adriana.
Although she is now out of the trade and on her way to finish high school, the damages remain. The tattoo is still clearly visible, but the less tangible mental damages go deeper than the ink. The 17 year old claims she has six distinct personalities within her that she uses to cope with the memories of the pain and the abuse. She describes herself as “breaking inside”. The psychological scars are deep, but she says that not being strung out on drugs like many other girls, and one of her more outgoing alter egos, have really helped her move on to a new life.
According to Adriana, child sex-trafficking is decreasing as the gangs are taking over the business and using the girls for a variety of other crimes other than prostitution – dealing, robbing, carjacking, just to name a few. The gangsters let the girls take the rap for these crimes if they’re caught, and the gangs still bring in revenue without the danger of being charged with child sex-trafficking. Adriana proposes to just make all sentences equal for those using children for crimes so as to deter criminals from doing so.