The fourth part in a five part mini series on profiling underaged prostitutes in the United States.
Choice versus Force
Victims do not freely choose prostitution or sexual exploitation. These individuals have suffered violence and abusive situations in which they may have lost their sense of psychological and physical well-being. A fragile sense of self-esteem and limited resources have led many individuals into believing that they have no other choice but to enter prostitution – due, largely, to the abusive and neglectful homes in which they grew up. In other words, victims slide into prostitution as an alternative due to past manipulation. This misconception of not being good for anything else is reinforced by their pimps, customers, peer group and/or “co-workers”.
The dominance of pimps over the victim is kept through coercion and psychological manipulation and not necessarily forced kidnappings. Victims suffer pain, humiliation and degradation by pimps and customers. What keeps individuals in prostitution is the fact that they are living by the rules of the street. For example, if an individual makes eye contact with another pimp then (s)he is forced into working for that pimp resulting in new ownership of him-/her-self as (s)he goes to work for that new pimp.
Next – I will wrap up this mini series by briefly looking at why victims do not seek help out of prostitution or sex trafficking.