Coercion is a powerful tactic in keeping trafficking victims enslaved.
Methods of Initiation
It is common for women to have at one point been in intimate relationships with the men who exploit them. These victims often describe classic dynamics of battering that have evolved into exploitation. Emotional and physical coercion is used to to break any resistance to forced prostitution. For some, stripping is used as an entry point into the sex industry, after which they are constantly pressured by the controller into prostitution.
Methods of Control
Methods used to coerce women in the sex industry include denying freedom of movement, isolation, controlling money, threats and intimidation, drug and alcohol dependencies, and physical and sexual violence.
At a recent UN Southwest Symposium on Human Trafficking(2/2014), NM Assistant Attorney General Maria Sanchez Gagne stated, “Coercion is a key element in human trafficking cases. But it can be difficult to prove. And it is the least understood of the three elements necessary[force, fraud, coercion] to prosecute a trafficking case.” Often there is a distinction made between prostitution and sex trafficking when trying to prosecute cases. Many take it for granted that what separates one from the other is choice. However, too many of theses cases reveal that “choice” is at the mercy of coercion.
Violence is an intrinsic part of prostitution and sexual exploitation. It is used to control and intimidate victims through frequent, sometimes daily assaults.
Inevitably these victims suffer emotionally from the trauma of these experiences. They are left with feelings of depression, hopelessness, anger and rage leading to attempts of hurting themselves and even suicide.
Methods of Coping and Resistance
Women are severely victimized while in the sex industry and they struggle to find ways to cope, resist and survive this exploitation and violence. The vast majority use drugs or alcohol to numb themselves. Many have tried multiple times to leave. But economic necessity, drug and alcohol dependence, and exploiters who beat, kidnapped and/or threatened them or their children prevented them from leaving.
When asked if they’ve entered the sex industry voluntarily, most responses reveal that this “choice” can only be discussed in the context of options. It should be emphasized that victims of trafficking and prostitution have few options. And many speak of prostitution only as a final option.
Recommendations for Change
Research, legislation, and enforcement strategies would benefit from a common definition of trafficking that is broad and inclusive enough to represent the reality of what happens to all women who are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation – across borders and within countries, into or in a country, with or without their consent, and through force, fraud, deception, or abuse of the vulnerability of a victim.
Spoken For has two primary goals:
- Prevention through awareness
- Direct support to victims and survivors of sex trafficking in New Mexico
Spoken For is privileged to help victims move past extreme crisis to a place of stabilization. It is our mission to offer these survivors choices, helping restore their future, building a bridge to opportunities, programs and systems that gives control over their life and the tools to realize their dreams.
Protection does not mean only rescue; although it often requires getting someone out of harm’s way. Protection must be as adaptable and dynamic as trafficking is insidious and unpredictable. Ultimately, true protection means giving victims access to and a choice among many options. Because this crime undermines the most basic human rights, protection services must be considered just as important as investigating and prosecuting the offenders. The damage inflicted by traffickers can never be undone, but it may be repaired.