I started to find human trafficking interesting after I watched a Lisa Ling special about brothels in India and other parts of Asia. I saw little girls, 7, 8 years old, sitting in closet sized rooms, mostly naked, waiting to be sold to the highest bidder. So I started to watch more and more of these shows. National Geographic, OWN, CNN, all of these networks brought me deeper and deeper into the world of human trafficking. My favorite episodes were always the ones where the crew ended up buying the girls so that they could get them to safety. I hated the ones where they were forced to leave them behind. What I started to notice was that every time someone would go up to the brothel to inquire about the girls, it was almost never a man who came to the door. In most cases, a woman was the one running the brothel. At first I was confused (I was 11 at the time I started becoming interested in trafficking), I thought that perhaps this woman was a sex slave as well, surely she wouldn’t work there out of her own free will. As I watched, and read, and researched more and more, I learned a shocking fact that a disturbing number of women were actually the traffickers themselves. As a child I simply couldn’t wrap my head around this notion but as I grew up, I learned that there actually were reasons as to why women would take part in this deplorable trade of people for money.
The first reason is that, often times, the women running the brothels were once slaves owned by the brothel themselves. Many of the female brothel owners started out as victims and through some circumstance were able to be freed from that position and have now turned to running the brothel as a way to make money. For many of them, this is the only life they’ve known. Countries like Thailand and India are notorious for family members selling their young children into sex slavery as means of income. Sometimes the family is given a portion of what the child “earns” and sometimes the child is traded just to fulfill a debt. It might seem hard to believe that someone, who for years was raped repeatedly by one stranger after another, was beaten, probably starved and maliciously abused, would choose to enter into a life where they would be administering that same hell onto other young kids. However, this is difficult for those of us who have never been in a situation even close to that, to understand; I think it’s probably something similar to Stockholm Syndrome. When you grow and that’s all you’re exposed to, day after day, it becomes the norm. Studies show that abuse victims may be more likely to become the abusers themselves. It upsets me greatly to know that these victims have been so brain washed into believing there is no other way to survive, that all new generations are having to suffer.
However, even if the perpetrator is aware that in fact, there are other means of living besides owning a brothel, they might not feel like they have any other choice financially. Sex sells. Brothel owners are likely going to make more one day than a week or more working in a factory or something similar. For many of these women, they’ve already been hardened to this life years ago. If it come between starving or selling someone else for sex, they will almost always chose themselves. Especially in countries were the poor are so dirt poor that are forced to live in the absolute most unsanitary, crowded, unhealthy conditions, wouldn’t most people do anything they could to get out of there? Sex trafficking, underage kids in brothels, for many countries this is a common reality that is part of the everyday lives of so many people. Even if they know it’s wrong, the survival instinct is too engaged for them to pass up the opportunity.
While trafficking anyone for any reason, but especially a child for sex, is completely unforgivable, I can understand why some women take part as traffickers, even if I don’t agree with the reasons. However, someone recently pointed out an article to me that was about a woman from Kentucky selling her 13-year-old female relative for sex. She gave this little girl to men, to use her as they like. Not only is this little girl going to be scarred for life by this, but how is she ever going to able to trust anyone, especially family, again? It completely sickens me to my stomach. How are we to hope to eradicate human trafficking completely from the world, when people aren’t even always safe with their own family members?
By: Danae Zimmer