Every business centers around a product that is being sold. It is that good or service that people seek out and others work to sell. When we look at human trafficking through the lens of business it becomes immediately clear that the product in this business isn’t just sex, it’s people. The problem is that the customers (the Johns) and the salesmen (the pimps) see these young women as a product rather than a human. But more than that, the issue is not just that the Johns and pimps find it normal to dehumanize people in this way, but that the girls themselves seem to have lost their humanity to the point that they find it normal to be used like this.
So the question that most of us would ask ourselves is this: “How could someone find it normal to be exploited?” The answer to that question is complicated and heavy. Many of the women involved in this life come from backgrounds that are riddled with abuse, economic distress, and familial instability. For instance, 70% of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking victims are in or have been in the foster care system. Girls from backgrounds like this become the target of traffickers - and the aim of these traffickers is sharp.
So these girls don’t find themselves in a place where exploitation is the norm overnight - it’s often a lifelong process. One pimp was quoted in a book on the trade of pimping - yes, there are books and manuals written about this - as saying (paraphrase), “I’d like to thank all those dads and uncles out there for starting her training for me…” Abuse and neglect have robbed these young women of their innocence, worth, and dignity. We’ve heard girls make statements such as “My mom’s boyfriends always just took it [sex] from me, so I figured I could use it to buy some food.” In this sense such girls feel empowered because for the first time in their lives they’re using something that others have abused as a means to support themselves. And because of this, they’re often unable to even see themselves as being exploited. This life is just normal to them.
This is why youth prevention efforts are such an important need. A few weeks ago, one of our co-founders, Season Russo, spoke at a women’s home in Florida. At that home there was a sweet lady in her 40’s who was recovering from a lifestyle of substance abuse. She spoke up during Season’s talk several times to say that she had been trafficked throughout her life and that such prevention efforts could have helped her when she was young. She thanked Season profusely for Eye Heart World’s work because she didn’t want other girls to follow the path of pain that her life took. This lady’s comments reinforced for us that there is so much we can do on the front end to help girls understand their worth and value. And in doing so, hopefully we can help them understand that it’s not normal to be a product - to help them understand that they are worth infinitely more than to be bought and sold, used and exploited.