I want to tell you about the program about human trafficking I attended last week. I found it very moving and I think you will too. Several of our shelters (My City and Ruby’s Place immediately come to mind) cater especially to rescuing young women who have been trapped into being sexual slaves. As a result, I think knowing about sexual trafficking is important for Handmade.
Being a sexual slave means the girls belong to their pimp 100%. They depend on him for love, food, clothing, shelter, emotional support—everything. He gains control over them in several ways: first, the Romeo method. He connects with them outside of schools, at the mall, the park, the library, wherever a young girl might go who has no where else to go. He looks for girls who appear to be loners, and offers them friendship, at first; then food and shelter; then love; and finally, the offer of a great future together with all the money she can make by selling herself on the street. The girls (frequently very young (as young as 12 or 13) are naïve, have low self-esteem, may come from dysfunctional families) are thrilled by the attention and especially by the suggestion of building a secure future together. They fall for the spiel, hook, line and sinker.
A second way the pimp gains control over girls is by the Gorilla method. He verbally brow beats her, physically beats her, and controls her in every way. The girl, without experience or other resources, feels her only choice is to obey. The alternative is too painful. A third method of control combines the first two: the pimp begins as Romeo and becomes a Gorilla to keep the girl in line.
After an introduction explaining what human trafficking is, Tangelia, a survivor spoke to us (frequently on the verge of tears) about her experience. The youngest of 4 children with drug-addicted parents, she was in foster care for most of her childhood. When she turned 18 and was emancipated from the foster care system, she had no where to go, no place to sleep, no program to organize her life, no resources to help her. She fell through the cracks, an excellent target for a trafficker. At first, her pimp romanced her, bought her presents, clothes, and most importantly, gave her a place to sleep. As (what she thought was) their relationship developed, he offered her the great opportunity to build an empire with him. She worked hard, and as she did, he turned his attention to other girls, romancing and recruiting them. She was crushed. She became suicidal. As her attempts at suicide increased, she became a liability to him so he dropped her, literally, by leaving her on a street corner in NY City, with no resources, friends, or anything. A stranger found her and contacted her sister in Los Angeles. Her sister sent her a ticket to come back to LA where she got into trouble, was arrested, etc. Luckily for her, instead of going to trial, she met with a social worker, a lawyer, and Mary White, the founder of Gems Uncovered. This dedicated group worked together to save her. She didn’t go to jail or prison; she went to therapy. Now, she advocates for other young women who have been rescued from trafficking.
After Tangelia spoke, Detective Satwan Johnson, of the Long Beach PD, came to the podium and told us about the methods pimps use to recruit girls (he showed us the easy availability of pimp manuals and a U-tube video on how to be a successful pimp), the extensive use of social media to sell sex, and what we citizens can do to combat sexual trafficking. Most striking was his description of the movement away from individuals in gangs selling drugs (which carries a lot of risk) to individual pimps commanding a harem selling sex (much less risky) that has a very high payoff for the pimp. The example he used was a pimp with 6 girls in his harem, each girl making (at the low end) $500 a day, when multiplied out, means he grosses over $1 million a year. Using social media to make the sales means the pimp is much harder to locate and arrest. Johnson cited statistics showing the high number of arrests he made when he started these investigations 11 years ago. Now that social media plays such a big role in the “industry,” The number of arrests are declining. He spoke directly to the audience, telling us what we can do to combat sexual trafficking:
Pay attention to what your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews are doing on-line
Contact your local council representatives to demand investigating trafficking
Make sure your school board includes programs about trafficking in the regular curriculum, along with sex education, STDs, bullying, etc.
Quite a few of the shelters to which we donate our scarves take in girls (and boys) rescued from trafficking. Up until attending this program, I thought the young people involved were smuggled in from foreign countries, especially Thailand. I was so mistaken. Like domestic violence, sexual trafficking hits every community, every racial group, every religious group, and every socio-economic group. The methods are quite the same—romance, isolation, physical control, emotional deprivation and control. After the program, I met Mary White, the founder of Gems Uncovered. In 2012, she opened a Drop-In Center where trafficked girls can go for safety, and then for therapy, education, clothing, shelter (in the same way as domestic violence survivors flee from their abusive environments to shelters). She was happy to hear about our scarf project. Of course, we will include her center on our list of scarf recipients. Tangelia, too. A few years ago, Shannon, an abuse survivor who graduated from Rainbow’s program, spoke to our group in the same emotional way Tangelia spoke. They both are survivors, but they carry with them the permanent scars of their experiences. I’m glad a scarf helped Shannon. Remember, she kept it long after she graduated. I think Tangelia will value her scarf too.
I know this was a lot to read, but really, I was so moved by the program, I just had to share it with you. FYI, the program covered sexual trafficking only. There’s also industrial, agricultural, and domestic (slavery) trafficking as well, all topics for another time.
Handmade is getting ready to ship comfort scarves to shelters in time for their Mother’s Day parties. Our shipping date is April 25. We hope to have around 2,000 scarves to share with our 70 shelters. It would be great if you could get your finished scarves to us by then, however, don’t worry if you can’t. Abuse doesn’t follow the calendar. If your scarves arrive too late for our Mother’s Day shipping, we’ll be shipping again in May.
Keep your needles clicking. Thanks for all you do to support Handmade Especially for You.
Ship your finished scarves to:
Handmade Especially for You c/o Leslye Borden
30065 Grandpoint Lane
Rancho Palos Verdes CA 90275
Handmade is a 501(c)3 charity. We will send a receipt for your donations.