Slavery does not look like what it used to. It is often difficult to spot or recognize. One reason this is true is because the victim might not realize they are a victim. We have in our minds what slavery looks like, when it actually looks much different. There are no more plantations or slave markets yet this evil still exist in our communities. Plus all that we’ve been taught about slavery teaches us that they would escape if they had the chance, but that too is often not true.
Many TV shows or movies about sex slavery show women being tied up and taken away and then rescued by some guy storming in the building. Of course, they then fall in love and have a happily ever after. Or a woman in the backseat of a car, fogging up the window so she can write “help” on it. These movies and TV shows do a disservice if we actually want to identify sex slavery. This is not usually how it goes; It is far more complicated. In fact, it takes a woman an average of 7 times to leave the abusive relationship. But why?
There are many women in slavery that have cell phones and can make calls. They can use public transportation and have what we think is a good amount of freedom. Even though it may baffle some of our minds, these women come back to their enslavers time and time again. I’ve been told, “If I was in that situation I’d just leave,” or, “If the women really wanted out then they’d get out.” This may seem like the logical thing, but the process of a woman being turned out breaks their will further than most of us can imagine. Intense trauma such as this can form a deep and troubling bond with the abuser. This is called trauma bonding.
Trauma bonding might be better known as Stockholm Syndrome. This comes from a case in Stockholm, Sweden when in 1973 bank robbers took some hostages. The bank robbers and hostages formed deep bonds in their days together to the point where many of the hostages would not provide law enforcement with any evidence against their captors. It was an interesting case study in trauma bonding. This is often times what happens with women in the life.
There is a pattern of betrayal that may help us understand a little better why women don’t just leave the life. I learned this through reading, but I first heard this from a friend who was a former pimp. He taught me the game. He told me what he would look for and how to get the women to stay, even though he was putting them through hard times. He had five girls working for him. I didn’t (and still don’t) understand how this works but he told me what every book I’ve ever read on the topic teaches me.
He would look for a girl who was cute but not too cute. She had to be shy or quiet, someone who didn’t have much self-confidence. He would then contact her, telling her she was pretty and sweet talk her. He was kind and took her on a date. If she didn’t have nice clothes, he would buy them for her. He would seem like the world’s greatest boyfriend. He would never have sex on the first date, he would wait until the second just to show her that it’s not all about sex for him. He wanted to show her the deception that he was a good man.
He wasn’t. Once the girl showed vulnerability, he would exploit it. He would lie and say he was out of money, but he knew how to get some. He would line up a friend that offered money to have sex with the girl. He would tell her that it was just her body and not the love she was giving, the love was reserved for them. She would agree since her man needed the money. This is important: after the first trick he would apologize and make her feel like she was his savior and that he needed her, that she was his true love. He had this pattern of treating her nice and getting her to trust him. Then he would break that promise.
He only had to do this a couple times and then she was so in love with him she’d do anything for him. It was at this point that he would introduce the new girl into his stable. She stayed because of his empty promises when they spent time together. He would tell her (and every other girl in his stable) that she was his favorite and she believed him. He wanted her to work hard so that they could get out of this life once and for all. It was always going to happen in just another week or two. Always being extended. Always lies and deception to keep his stable making his money.
I asked him how long this process took, thinking months and months. He said it depended on the girl’s level of self-esteem. If she had really low self-esteem it would take days, but it never took more than two weeks to seduce and bond with the girl to the point of getting her to do whatever he wanted. Then once they were in the stable, he would use more lies and manipulation to keep the girls out there making his money.
He would use competitions to get the girls to make more money faster. He would set up competitions with rewards if they won. The winner usually got a night off and a nice date with him. These girls would compete for his love. Like the competition of reality TV, competition can turn some of the nicest people into monsters just so that they might win. Pimps knew this long before television agencies did.
To gain sympathy he would always tell these girls on their first date about all the abuse that happened in his childhood, telling them a tale of woe. This deepened the bond as they thought he was being vulnerable with them. He told them he needed them; that he hadn’t felt this good ever in his life as he does with this girl. “They fell for it every time.”
This is a sad and true tale. My friend left the game because he had a heart. I know this sounds weird. He was a finesse pimp, not a guerilla pimp. He would never hit his girls or have them gang raped intentionally to break their wills. He actually liked the girls and hated when they were in pain. He eventually left the game because of one too many trips to the ER with unspeakable horrors done to his girls by the Johns. He left and allowed the women to leave. He is now restored and reformed, regretting his former life. His stories are all true, and books I’ve read confirm them.
I will leave you with two books that might help you in your understanding of trauma bonding. One is fiction and the other by a doctor who has specialized in sexual trauma for many years. Both are a wealth of knowledge, particularly if read at the same time. I would suggest the non-fiction before the fiction even though the fiction shows how this trauma bonding could work.
The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitative Relationships by Patrick J. Carnes PhD
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
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