Sex slavery in America is life at its worst, and being transported to an unknown destination makes it worse. Different cultures have different meanings, but basically it means holding a person against their will for non-consensual sexual activity. The victim could be either male or female, but primarily it is women and children who are used in this industry.
What Is Sex Slavery?
Slavery itself refers to a person who is not free to live as they would choose. In many countries there is a traditional form of sex slavery, such as concubines, who spend their entire lives serving a man with sexual favors. Prostitution, sex slavery and concubines are some of the ways women are forced to spend their lives in sexual bondage.
Sex slavery in America looks somewhat different from other cultures. Here is a typical sex slavery documentary from Utah.
Utah truck driver Timothy Jay Vafeades had been driving tractor-trailers across country for over 25 years. Minnesota state troopers pulled him over last year and arrested him for a protective order that was actually outdated, but the officers had a strange feeling about Vafeades as they talked to him.
There was a girl with him at the arrest, but he never let her speak and she kept her head down avoiding eye contact with anyone. The officers thought that both of their behaviors were suspicious even as Vafeades answered all the questions. The background check caused them to call statewide for arrest of a truck with the name “Twilight Express.”
When the woman was separated from Vafeades, she told Minnesota authorities that he had kept her imprisoned for months usually in the truck. He had altered her appearance against her will. After the arrest, another woman, 18 years old, alleged that she had encountered similar abuse in 2012. Over a 20 year period four other victims came forward held with similar sex slavery stories.
Vafeades lived in his truck and went from truck stop to truck stop throughout those years. It cannot be truly known how many woman and girls he held against their will during this time. After the police searched the truck, they found digital hard drives that contained child pornography. Child sex slavery is another form of bondage where the perpetrator kidnaps the child and disappears on the road.
Vafeades pleaded not guilty to the six federal charges that were known including kidnapping and transporting for illegal sexual activity.
Sex Slavery at its Worst
Any man, woman or child that is held against their will and is required to submit to the sexual wishes of the one who abducted them is suffering sex slavery at its worst. Valerie Amos, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief knows first-hand about sex trafficking and sexual slavery.
Her sex slavery stories and sex slavery documentary describe how female, and even children as young as 12 years old, are enslaved and sexually abused. In the Islamic State, she reports, women captured are sold in markets in Ragga, which has become known for its sex trafficking. The girls are brought to Ragga where they are either sold to individual men or are kept in Islamic rest houses. In these houses, women face over 30 rapes daily by the fighters coming back from war.
Amos reports that there has also been an increase in forced marriages because parents are more terrified of their daughters being forced into the Islamic State.
What is Human Trafficking and What Does It Look Like?
Sex slavery or human trafficking is a $32 billion industry that involves a form of slavery that transports and trades victims in order to work and make money for the kidnappers in the sex trade. According to the U.N., over 2.5 million people throughout the world are involved in sexual slavery at any given time. These numbers are continuing to increase.
Human trafficking or sex slavery involves people of all backgrounds, and those captured are trafficked for a variety of purposes. Young children are typically trafficked with women into the commercial sex industry, which involves many forms of sexual exploitation including prostitution.
Sex trafficking is an unusually cruel form of slavery because by nature the victims are removed from all that is familiar to them and then abused and violated. She is alone, isolated and forced to live in rooms that hold 5-15 other victims. Sometimes she does not even know the language of her captivators or the men that are abusing her. There is no “time off” for these girls; they are always under the watchful eye of the abusers.
Organized Crime in the Eastern Countries
Those involved in human trafficking are in it for one reason, the money. Sex trafficking, kidnapping, prostitution, physical abuse and rape are illegal in every country in the world, but greed pushes the boundaries, so the business grows. Local police forces attempt to harness the industry, but many times members of the force are involved and don’t follow the statutes.
National and international agencies attempt to regulate the legislation against sex trafficking, but it inevitably filters down to the local jurisdiction. Sex slavery statistics show that organized crime plays a tremendous role in promoting sex slavery and leading sexual slavery rings.
Some sex slavery facts from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime or the UNODC show that the greatest numbers of sex traffickers are from Asia, with Central and Southeastern Europe and Western Europe following close behind. Trafficking drugs and firearms are often associated with sex trafficking as part of their activities. For the same reason, drugs are often included.
Who Purchases Trafficked Women and Girls?
Men from all parts of society support the trafficking industry; many of the men come from the most highly developed nations that have the largest number of consumers. No longer is it acceptable to say “it happens over there, but not over here” because there is no specific profile of a perpetrator.
Men who purchase a trafficked woman or use them in prostitution are both Eastern and Western, married and single, and rich or poor. The New York Times reports that in one case the men have sex with a young girl to avoid abusing their own children. Since sex is found on every corner, they rationalize that it’s OK.
In many parts of the world, there is no perceived stigma attached to paying for sex or trading sex for products and services. America has not reached this idealism yet, but it is on the way. The reason this mentality exists is because prostitution or sexual slavery are perceived as victimless crimes. To someone in the 21st century from a well-developed culture this is ridiculous. Women are 50 percent of society with feelings, emotions, reputations and a sense of purpose equal to a man.
Sexual tourism, which is traveling or vacationing solely for the purpose of having sex, is a billion dollar industry. This commerce presents another avenue for women and girls to be bought, abused and sexually exploited. Tours are marketed to pedophiles who prey on young children.
Women and Girls Are Forced into Service, Then Trafficked
In the U.S., there are certain cities that focus on human trafficking and they meet with other traffickers to exchange drugs, weapons, women and children. In the 21st century, the child sex slavery industry has risen to over 300,000 children who are drawn into prostitution and child sex slavery every year.
In other countries, the sex trade may work like this: a woman/girl from Ukraine is sold to a human trafficker in Turkey, who then passes her to another trafficker in Malaysia. Along the way, she becomes confused and disoriented, and in addition the victims are not told the true destination country and so she is completely dependent on the traffickers.
The usual protocol for a trafficked women is not pleasant. Before she begins servicing the clients, the women are violently raped by the ones who captured her. And then starts a cycle of abuse and degradation that is embedded in her mind, and she becomes even more dependent. According to the Polaris Project, the sex trafficked victims will service up to 20-48 men a day, despite emotional breakdown, degradation and physical and psychological torture. Unwanted pregnancy occurs often.
Victims are often forced to do without food and sleep for long periods of time. Captives in sex slavery may be told their families and children will be hurt or even murdered if they try to escape. The final layer of psychological stress and frustration is created when they don’t know the culture or the language.
Citizens Preventing Sex Trafficking
As individuals, it may seem difficult to promote change, but there is a national organization of volunteer professional women called Soroptimist International who have come together to improve the lives of communities and sex victims around the world. Their goal is to raise awareness of human trafficking and to offer both direct and indirect help to victims, and they are actively calling on the general public to unite against the sex industry.