“Pimps prey upon the most vulnerable girls and young women; girls who are runaways and homeless, girls who have been victims of child sexual abuse, low-income girls, often girls of color, who are considered disposable in our society.” ~ Rachel Lloyd in “Jay-Z’s ‘Big Pimpin’ regret provides ‘blueprint’ for hip-hop”
The biggest common factor in all CSEC, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, victims is poverty because poverty cuts across all races. In addition, girls often become victims if they have experienced violence and/or sexual abuse in their household. The lack of love and support at home, causes the girls to look for love and support elsewhere, making it easy for pimps to prey on young girls, the average age being 13, who can be easily manipulated. Given some of these risk factors, girls who make up the majority of the CSEC victims are of color, in poverty, and experience verbal and sexual abuse at home.
One CSEC survivor who works at Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, lived with her mom and siblings; she always had to come straight home from school to cook for her whole family at the age of 12. She had just met an older guy who lived down the block and she talked to him every night on the the phone for months without ever seeing him. One day her mom beat her really badly because she had come home later than usual. That night she ran away with the guy who she had been talking to. That night she also lost her virginity, to a man who was old enough to be her father.
Upon not having the proper knowledge, I thought, “why would a girl be attracted to a man who is twice her age?” But I did not consider the fact that these girls grow up not understanding what love is and what it looks like. In some instances, it’s not the kind of love that you would have for a boyfriend, but the love you would have for a father, someone who takes care of you and protects you.
Dominique, featured in the documentary Very Young Girls, was told her by her pimp they would be like a family and he would never leave her, all Dominique wanted was a family, so she went away with him. Her pimp pretended like he was her father by buying her Blue’s Clues products, clothes and taking her to the movies.
Later in the film, Shaneiqua’s pimp tells her, “I would love you a lot more if you brought in money for me.” She feels like he has given her everything in the world, so she is obligated to return the favor.
This should be the easiest thing to comprehend; when someone does a favor for you, you return the favor. This may seem extreme to apply this logic to CSEC, but when you have nothing, what do you have to give back? She has no other choice but to do what he asks.
The “honeymoon stage” is when the pimps buy the girls things and are nice to them. It makes the girls feel like they owe their pimp. The amount of money he spends during the honeymoon stage, however, is significantly less than the amount of money he makes off of her later.
The pimps draw the girls in with love and protection, but they keep them from leaving with fear. The pimp of the GEMS employee and survivor I mentioned took away her ID’s, gave her a new name and age, told her to dye her hair red, bought her wigs, told her to say that her pimp was really a family member/friend and especially, not to trust cops.
During slavery, masters branded their slaves, whipped their slaves, and encouraged the slaves to rat out the other slaves. Similarly, pimps tattoo/brand their name on the girls’ body, beat them nearly to death when they don’t listen, and have one girl keep the other girls in check.
In my own experience of relationships I find myself holding on, remembering when times were good. From this memory I have rationalized why the girls stay with their pimps and why they believe him when he says he’s going to change. The girls’ have experienced domestic violence growing up and now from their pimp, causing a misinterpretation of what love is. Rihanna, in her recently released video titled “We Found Love,” reveals how she mistook drugs, sex, and violence for love, and how it led to her fight with Chris Brown.
When in a traumatic situation even the littlest things mean the most. In her memoir, Girls Like Us, Lloyd talks about how she was forced by her pimp to say “I will not be ‘unloyal’,” for hours while he held a knife to her neck. During that time she actually began to think that it was her fault and she was being “unloyal.” When Lloyd came to our annual GEMS assembly she said that if the person has the power to take your life and they don’t, you have a sense of gratitude.
The though that your pimp has the power to take your life, can keep you from running away for fear that he will eventually find you and kill you. If the CSEC victim does manage to escape, the pimp knows that she will be coming right back.
After being fed up with the beatings, the girls escape, but when they do, there is no one there to protect them, help them, or love them because their families, the social justice system and society, consider them criminals instead of victims. When they go to their family they come face to face with the same reasons why they left in the first place.
For example, Dominique left her pimp and had nowhere else to go, but back home. Upon returning home, her mom didn’t want to deal with her and even judged her for what she had done, which made her go right back into the hands of her pimp.
The justice system also points the finger at the girls. Lloyd says in her article titled, “Corporate sponsored pimping plays a role in US human trafficking,” that the girls are victimized “perhaps, because those girls are frequently low income girls, girls of color, girls who’ve been in the child welfare system, girls in the juvenile justice system – girls who aren’t high on anyone’s priority list anyway.” Having these attributes doesn’t allow for them to be labeled as “real victims.”
People are quick to say, “she must have done something; what was she wearing?” “Did she suggest that she wanted to have sex?” For example, Ebony, a victim of CSEC featured in Very Young Girls, said that people on the street gave her looks like they know what she’d done. This sense of isolation will make her go back to her pimp because she knows that he accepts her and loves her.
When trying to escape “the life,” the girls have no education, shelter, or money. They look to help from their families and from the court but leave disappointed, and thus often end up going back to their pimp.
CSEC is a hard concept to swallow, but it is similar to everyday things, like credit companies. When a person is in debt they take the money that you earn, you can’t ever escape from them, they never go away, they can put you in jail, they can keep you from getting a job, apartment or car, and you can’t make any decisions without them approving of it first. The creditors are pimping us, we can’t get away from them and they manipulate us in our time of need. The reason we look to credit is because we dont have enough money, once we get the money we have to pay back more than what we borrowed and go back to having no money.
Similarly, CSEC victims get into the life because of violence and neglect and when they succeed at escaping, they face violence and neglect once again. The lack of support from family, the justice system and society, causes for the girls’ to relapse. Places like GEMS were founded because Rachel Lloyd knew first-hand that the girls needed love and support in order to stay out of the life. Lloyd is trying her best to get the word out about CSEC and she is really making a huge impact; over 3 million have watched her groundbreaking documentary, Very Young Girls, and she has published her memoir Girls Like Us.
The way that we can make a difference is to educate other people and monitor the ways in which you may be subconsciously supporting the degradation of women.