“His version of controlling love seemed normal to me.”
In November of 2016, Kate was living in Anchorage, AK, struggling with depression and addiction when she responded to a vague online ad, offering potential income to women in Seattle. A man—who at first pretended to be a woman so she would feel more comfortable—responded. Just after Christmas that year, after he earned her trust through manipulation, she moved to Seattle. The day after she arrived, he put her to work—as an “escort.”
She felt loved by him, and she fell in love with him. Over time, he cut her off from her friends and family, isolating her, and controlling her every move—and eventually, they got engaged. His control and isolation became Kate’s normal—he fueled her addiction, and she felt stuck.
300–500 children are currently being exploited in Seattle.
The average age of entry by youth into the sex trade is 11–14 years old.
One in seven runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely sex trafficking victims.
The mean number of times a child who has been trafficked has been placed in the child welfare system is 27.
75–95% of victims of commercial sexual abuse were sexually abused as children.
“I have never felt loved...”
Wendy took her first hit of crack cocaine when she was 13. Her mother provided it. She was immediately addicted. She turned to selling sex as both a means of survival (when her mother was off battling her own addiction) and to support her new-found drug habit.
When she was a teenager, she didn’t understand the consequences of her actions—but she knew she was getting money to support herself and her addiction.
It can take just one bad relationship.
85–95% of women engaged in the sex trade reported being under the control of a pimp at some point.
There are many different types of traffickers, also known as “abusers” or “pimps.”
Boyfriend or Romeo Pimp: Uses a romantic relationship to manipulate or coerce their victim to trade sex for money
Guerilla Pimp: Uses violence from the outset to condition their victim to “obey”
Peer: A “friend” shows the victim the “rules of the game” and teaches them how to trade sex
Parent or Family: A parent or family member, possibly even with ties to a pedophilia ring, trafficks the child
Gang: To be part of the gang, the victim must trade sex to contribute to the financial status of the gang
Organized Crime (business): Recruits potential “employees” for work, then forces them to trade sex, often withholding personal documents like birth certificates and passports
“He already knew what he was gonna do.”
Becky came from a broken home. Her mother was a drug addict and was engaged in the sex trade—and her father was absent. So when a man entered Becky’s life when she was 18—she wanted desperately to earn and keep his love. He already had a plan for her, however.
At first, he occasionally asked her to sell her body to “make ends meet”—but by the time she was 20, it was her everyday life.
Over the next 20 years, she would marry and have three children with her abuser, spend two years in prison, endure a volatile and violent relationship—and spend about 12 of those years on-and-off in the sex trade.
The sex trade is violent.
In one study in the United States, 86% of women were subjected to physical violence, sexual assault, and other forms of violence from their buyers.
“I was born into it.”
Esmé was born into a family that was part of a cult. From her earliest memories, she recalls extreme sexual abuse, torture, and even witnessing the gruesome murder of a childhood friend. She was trafficked among the cult members.
On a number of occasions, she tried to tell someone about the abuse—including her parents, before she realized they were a part of it too.
Based on what she had already seen them do, she believed their threat.