Written by Brianna D'Itri, Medical Advocacy Community Education Specialist
Pretty Woman. The Client List. Risky Business. The Girlfriend Experience.
Exciting car chases, expensive shopping trips, and happy endings of all kinds.
The glamorous image of prostitution and sex trafficking in television and movies bears little resemblance to the real, everyday life of a victim of sex trafficking. One common misconception is that victims of sex trafficking are just prostitutes turning tricks to pay the bills. While some people are sex workers voluntarily, the difference between them and a trafficking victim is who keeps the money.
Sex workers, or voluntary prostitutes, are not under the control of a pimp, choose their clients, set their rates, and keep their earnings. Sex trafficking victims are often forced into commercial sex, are controlled physically and/or emotionally through violence and threats, do not choose their clients, do not set their rates, and certainly do not keep their earnings. What appears as prostitution is actually slave labor.
The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. In the United States, the National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 4,028 cases of sex trafficking in 2018. 127 of those cases were in Pennsylvania, putting PA in the top 10 states for identified cases.
In Beaver County, trafficking may look different than it does globally or in large cities. More commonly, in lower income communities, it isn’t a high-cost escort service that does the most business. Here, trafficking may be a parent allowing the sexual abuse of their child by an intimate partner so that the rent gets paid or the fridge stays stocked. Trafficking in Beaver County could mean someone’s pimp is also their partner, friend, or family member. It could be an illicit massage business or nail salon. Often times, the power and control of the trafficker stems from a need arising from poverty.
Beaver County’s Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition took to the streets of Ambridge on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day to bring attention to and educate people about trafficking in our communities. There is much work to be done to eradicate our county’s current trafficking problem and prevent future exploitation.
Do you want to help end trafficking in our community? The Beaver County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition, a collection of interested citizens and social workers, meets every first Wednesday of the month at Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden.