Stock image found using the search term "pimp," as in "pimp my bike,"
further glorifying the "pimp n ho" culture.
A local radio morning show conducted a crank call to a bar pretending to be someone looking for employment on the premiss that they knew a current employee there from their days together as prostitutes. Listening to this show, I was thoroughly disgusted at how they were using prostitution as a point of humor that lasted for several minutes. When I remarked how I felt about the broadcast, a colleague of mine (at a part-time job outside of Traffick Free), she stated how she thought it was hilarious - and I knew she was not alone. I am sure several listeners felt the same way she did, probably hundreds of listeners.
As I think about the presentations I have given over the last week to teenagers, staring these young audience members in the face as I told them the average age of entry into the life of sex trafficking was their own age (11-13), I could do nothing but cringe at how this radio station made such lewd humor out of such a dire situation. While I am sure they had no idea the harm they were actually doing, it reminded me how so many people really are living in blissful ignorance. It is these reminders that keep our primary focus of awareness and education going.
On Sunday, out in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, I spoke to teenagers whose only reference to human trafficking was the movie Taken. While situations involving large criminal networks, foreign lands, and kidnapping most certainly occur, these teenagers were completely oblivious to the fact that their peers have fallen victim to human trafficking in their backyard without ever traveling outside the state, without ever having been kidnapped, and without a largely networked mob controlling them.
Last week, I spoke to teenagers at an alternative high school in Chicago and as I asked them to picture a little sister or anyone else they might know around 12 years old, it turned out that the one girl who knew the most about human trafficking was just 12-years old herself. She told me how she had a classmate, about 16 years old, who went missing and her body turned up and was discovered that she had been sold from one pimp to another, and controlled with drugs. She then went on to ask why there were girls she knew who worked for "this guy" (I helped her define him as a pimp) and he lets them leave but they don't. We went on to discuss the false perception of choice... For these teenagers, it was not so much presenting human trafficking as a new concept, rather, it was redefining what they knew as johns, pimps, and victimization.
Attendees at Traffick Free events always ask what they can do to combat human trafficking. Based on crude humor like the one displayed on the local Chicago morning radio show, it still begins with man number one and changing your own speech, changing the way you view prostitution and all the terminology associated with it not as a victimless crime and a profession of choice - but that it is everything that promotes exploitation, victimization, and a need for us to continue to do what we do.
by: Laura Ng, Executive Director of Traffick Free