by Patrick Atkinson
When God created the world, He first invented time, space, land and the seas. After that came animals and people and God decided to rest. Left to our own devices, we mortals almost immediately discovered sex.
That arrangement worked great until, one day, someone noticed a nearby apple tree and wondered if they could trade a bite of one of those for a kiss. That didn’t settle well with God. Within a few years, brothers were fighting brothers to see who could make money off the other.
Human Trafficking has existed for as long as humanity has existed. It is recorded in the earliest writings of the Old Testament, ancient Sanskrit, and native legends worldwide. Look back as far as you can and you’ll find the three facets of human trafficking: Prostitution, Slave Labor, and the Trade in Body Parts. The common element in these is that someone is being made to do something they don’t want to do for the financial gain of another person; the victim… the slave… is forced or tricked into a situation they feel they can’t escape.
Let’s focus on prostitution, or as Rudyard Kipling labeled it in his 1888 short story, ‘On the City Wall,’ “the world’s oldest profession.”
Quite simply, prostitution is the exchange of money or something of value for sex. It can involve sex acts, fantasy role playing, strip clubs, or the making of pornography.
While Julia Roberts is one of my favorite actresses, she did no favors in her 1990 movie, Pretty Woman in which she portrays a happy, healthy and financially-successful prostitute who meets and marries a wealthy, compassionate and well-balanced businessman, played by Richard Gere.
As you watch the movie, you think, “Heck yeah,” and cheer them on in their discovery of true love. Girls nationwide wanted to become just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
In reality, prostitution is a dirty and violence-filled lifestyle. With an estimated 3,000,000 adult prostitutes in the United States, in addition to 100,000 child prostitutes, the world of prostitution is riddled with mental illness, violence, disease, rape, and drug addiction. The average age of ‘induction’ into prostitution in the United States is 13, with the average prostitute forced to have sex with up to 20 different people each day.
No mentally healthy woman or man, girl or boy, freely wants the lifestyle of a prostitute. The guys are not charming and Richard Gere-clean; in reality they are usually dirty, sweaty, drunk, and sometimes enjoy biting, cutting, scratching, branding the prostitute with cigarettes, and forcing odd and unusual things to which the prostitute didn’t agree.
Sexually transmitted diseases are rampant, as are hepatitis and tuberculosis. “Why would someone want this lifestyle?” you ask. The answer is, they don’t.
Children, teens and young adults are driven down Welcome to Hell Highway and into Prostitutionland in one of three ways. The first is through abuse, manipulation and the creation of false indebtedness which begins when a relative or trusted friend rapes or abuses the victim and manipulates them into thinking they were at fault. The abuser may create the false impression that the victim is in emotional or material debt to the abuser and ‘owes’ them the sexual activity. This is never true.
The abuse happens and the abuser uses shame, trust distortion, or threats of violence to convince the victim they now share a ‘secret.’ The sexual activity continues and escalates into prostitution when the abuser convinces, or forces, the victim to let someone else also abuse them sexually. Very likely the victim doesn’t know that the abuser charged for the sex act and kept the money for himself.
The victim’s body has begun it’s descent into becoming an object for profit. It is first sold to one buyer, then to another, and then to yet another. The ‘secret’ becomes a living nightmare; if pictures or video were taken, and in today’s digital age they almost always are, the blackmail potential is heightened and the control made more complete.
A second path into the terrible world of prostitution comes packaged as true love. What child, teenager or adult hasn’t felt, at one time or another, isolated, misunderstood, and socially rejected?
Predators are skilled at spotting children and adults going through these awkward life phases and pounce on opportunities to manipulate these moments, especially in rebelling teenagers, to their financial advantage.
They troll online and pretend to look for friends. False acceptance and understanding are offered to the targeted victim. Their jokes are laughed at; the eye contact shared is steady and beautiful. The future victim feels, for the first time in their life, that they are loved and understood.
The seductive turns sexual and the predator moves to exploit. Intimate photographs are taken, supposedly to share love and trust but really to build blackmail inventory, and trade and sell to others.
Inevitably a financial crisis appears in the predator-boyfriend’s life, and the predator begs the targeted victim to help him out by having sex with a friend for money. To show her love and commitment, the victim agrees. More money is needed, it happens again. Photos are taken, violence is threatened, and mind games are played. The downward spiral has begun.
The third road into prostitution is driven by mental illness. Because of the violence, filth and disease inherent with prostitution, no mentally healthy person wants the prostitute lifestyle. Unfortunately some people are not mentally healthy; they suffer psychiatric disorders, drug or alcohol-addictions, and self-loathing or hatred. They are ill; these people need help and not to be exploited.
Once involved in prostitution, children, teens and adults often incorrectly feel that they have no way out. Every day they are reminded of their shame, of the blackmail photos, and of the threats of violence to themselves and their parents, friends and siblings if they try to break free.
Be safe as you learn to live a healthy, positive, and enjoyable journey through the wonderful world of human sexuality. Here are some tips to stay safe:
*Don’t post your personal information online. Not only is intrigue and little bit of mystery more interesting, you don’t want just anyone knowing where you live, go to school, or how old you are. Your friends already know this information.
*Don’t take or share pictures you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. Once you share an intimate photo, you have lost control of that forever; nothing digital ever completely disappears.
*If you meet someone online or in person who gives you the creeps, listen to your feelings. Walk away and tell a responsible adult.
*If someone wants to hurt you, run away fast, and call 911. The police are extremely well trained; put them to work helping you.
*If you know of a friend or family member who is being exploited, tell a responsible adult. If nothing happens, tell someone else.
Today’s world is crazy with both the good and the bad. Help others find good. Together we can fight the bad.
Bismarck-native Patrick Atkinson is the founder and CEO of The GOD’S CHILD Project’s international network of award-winning charities, which includes the ‘Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons’, which assist an average of 13,700 people each day. For more information, visit www.GodsChild.org and www.ITEMP.org.