Why Victims Do Not Seek Help
The key reason victims do not seek help is because they have a twisted love for their pimp which prevents them from contacting the police. Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Sharmin Eshraghi Bock accurately describe why teen prostitutes do not leave the lifestyle of prostitution by stating, ” they don’t know what love looks like, what it feels like, or means to be loved. When the pimps gives them some pretty clothes, a hot meal, a cell phone and some attention, they think that’s love.” Prostitutes have difficulty escaping even after the attention turns violent. Intertwined with this reality is the truth that victims of sexual exploitation often times do not immediately seek help or self-identify as a victim due to lack of trust, self-blame or training by the traffickers.
There is a very little chance of victims getting out of the industry, according to John McGuiness, former Sacramento Sheriff. Many victims, especially in Sacramento, CA, stay in the part of the city they were initially trapped in. Pimps do not chase girls/boys from city to city if a victim leaves the city of entrapment or ’employment’ due to the demand in the current location and the ability to employ a new victim outweighs the cost of retrieving a former victim. If a victim escapes his or her pimp, (s)he will most likely be ensnared by another one. There are no places for a victim to go due to pimps, customers and other prostitutes being their only points of contacts.
Thirdly, victims may not leave a situation due to brainwashing on behalf of pimps and traffickers. These latter parties purposefully control the information that victims receive including any resources or services designed to help them (the victim). Victims distrust law enforcement, government officials and services providers because of what pimps have told them, past negative experiences and/or a community’s lack of action. Victims are afraid of police due to a belief they will be arrest for other crimes and locked up indefinitely. There is some partial truth to this, however, as the justice system views victims of prostitution in a negative light and treats them as criminals rather than victims. Executive Director of ECPAT-USA, Carol Smolenski, sates that there needs to be a “(social) service that will a victim’s situation well, making it easier for her to leave”.
Note: an important facet is that the majority of trafficking and prostitution victims do not self-identify as victims. This is important because they may be unaware of the elements of the crime or the Federal criminal paradigm designed to protect them. Additionally, a victim is trained in telling lies to organizations designed to aid them.