By Anna Ptak
Exploitation comes in many shapes and forms. And healing from that means grasping the reality of what happened and how you got involved with your trafficker. As we listen to pop culture and the media, we see how easy it is to accept and normalize violent and abusive behaviors. During my healing, I had to go through all of the stages in counseling from when I met my trafficker until I left him. I remember there were times I would tell myself that I was crazy, that I should have known better, that it was my fault. The truth is it was not my fault. I was groomed not only by him, but also by the media.
"The relationship I had with my forty-year-old trafficker seemed normal because of what rappers said about relationships."
What I had seen and heard in the lyrics of music, were now truths in my head. It never occurred to me that posing in sexual ways for photographs was odd. I thought it was normal because what I saw people dress like in the media. The relationship I had with my forty-year-old trafficker seemed normal because of what rappers said about relationships. It never occurred to me that power, dominance, and performing sexual acts under his direction was unhealthy or not normal.
The term ‘pimp’ is conveyed throughout society in multiple ways. We hear rappers use this term in their songs consistently throughout the media. For example, in the artist DMC’s song P.I.M.P you hear him use the lyrics, “big pimpin’ spendin’ G’s.” The idea of pimping has become this glorified and prized job of maintaining control over women and posing the ability to have sex with them anytime you want. If one is "pimpin", their excess in money makes them appear like the top-dog in their ‘hood. What the world doesn't realize is that what an real-life pimp does and looks like may surprise you and this idea of a pimp is far from the truth.
Here are 5 facts and myths about pimps in the real world.
Pimps are traffickers. Fact. Pimps maintain control over victims through force, fraud, and or coercion. Trafficking happens to all genders, but victims do not get to keep any money. If victims do keep money, it is very little. Pimps are forcing people to have sex or, in essence, force them to be "raped by strangers" for their own profit.
Pimps are not as flashy as they appear in the media. Fact. Pimps are not always covered in gold chains or drive expensive cars. Pimps don't want to get caught. They aren't going to openly flash their status to the world. They may privately with their crew, but pimps are everywhere and can be anyone. They are not just males, either. Sometimes, women are also pimps. A female pimp is called a Madam. What easier way to make a young girl feel more comfortable being approached by a stranger?
Pimps are not just adults. Fact. Pimps can easily be young adults and even children. As time goes on, gangs are starting to prey on children in the school system. A similar concept to women recruiting girls, what better way to gain control over kids? Using a kid to get to them by relating to them on a level more comfortable than an adult can. They may ask them to start hanging out in a preplanned situation that will isolate them from others or put them in places of danger.
Pimps are not rapists, they take care of the girls who work for them. Myth. Pimps are violent and often commit rape upon their victims. They rape or beat them to maintain control over them. It increases a level of fear so the victims are more likely to cooperate. In prostitution, there is one girl who considered the bottom girl. She gets the most responsibilities and “privileges”. The bottom girl is usually in charge of driving vehicles and making sure the girls look “presentable” so clients are attracted to them. A bottom girl can also face even more extreme abuse from the pimps if they don’t deliver results exactly as the pimp wants. Imagine being a parent and being beaten if you were not able to get your child dressed the way your partner wanted. None of these behaviors suggest care, empathy, or moral support.
WE CANNOT PROTECT ANYONE IF WE DO NOT CHANGE THE WAY THAT WE THINK.
Pimps recruit only in person. Myth. As mentioned before, they can recruit through others, like a child or a friend of the victims. Pimps also recruit victims through the internet. Social media is a huge hub for traffickers. How easy was it for you to set up a Facebook account? You can essentially be anyone you want to be, and have access to anyone who will allow it. Pimps often build a relationship through a fake facade and groom the child they are planning to traffick. Grooming techniques may include approaching girls who appear to crave attention. Grooming is the means and strategies a pimp takes to manipulate a victim before they exploit them. For example, pimps may tell the girl all the things they want to hear and BOOM, that's their open door. Phone apps such as Kik are often used by pimps because they don't need a phone number to communicate with someone. Like I said before, pimps are smart. If they do get caught, you can believe they did everything to cover their tracks.
The solution is simple: in order to protect others from becoming victims it is imperative we change the mindset of our culture. Pimping is trafficking. We cannot protect anyone if we do not change the way that we think. If we renew our thinking, we can transform our lives.
Anna Ptak is currently an international public speaker as well as a survivor and policy consultant in the movement to end Human Trafficking. Her personal focus is on the link between sex trafficking and pornography. Her role in the movement has been greatly focused around policy, law and curriculum development for safe houses working with survivors of sex trafficking. Facebook.com/mrsannaptak | Instagram & Twitter: @mrsannaptak