Last Updated 23 Dec 2022

Human Trafficking: Critical Analysis Paper 

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This paper will focus on three concepts pulled from the Human Trafficking: Interdisciplinary Perspectives textbook and then relate these concepts back to the book, Walking Prey, which details a survivor’s story. The first concept the paper will focus on will be commercialized intimacy. The next topic of focus will be victim recruitment and how victims are recruited and the type of recruiters. Finally, the last topic will focus on trauma the survivors of human trafficking have to deal with and the idea of the “therapeutic window.” Then the paper will wrap up with a review on the pros and cons of Walking Prey and whether it should be used in the future to educate others.

Commercialized Intimacy

Commercialized intimacy is one of the factors that contribute to the oppression of women in human trafficking. Commercialized intimacy dehumanizes people’s bodies by making them a product to be sold. As the book eloquently states, “commercialized intimacy is part of the increasing commodification of intimacy that permeates and sustains global capitalism; ” thus as we progress the link between intimacy and capital becomes more closely fused. (Burke, 2018, p. 86). This relationship between the global economy and human trafficking is a representation of macro-level interactions, while the relationships between the consumers, slaves, and traffickers are representations of micro-level interactions.

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The textbook addresses Bridget Anderson’s statements about how in human trafficking not only is the body dehumanized to a commodity, but the victim’s personhood is also being exchanged in these transactions and that these transactions are unequal exchanges. However, the dehumanization of the body is not the only factor we see when bodies are marked as property, we also see entitlement from the traffickers or employers. In the minds of the trafficker they own this person and this person is property that they are allowed to use as they see fit. This is seen even in non-sex trafficking situations such as the example from the textbook where even care workers are being exploited and assaulted because their employers feel entitled to their bodies.

In the textbook, it is addressed that light skin “sells” meaning having light skin makes these girls more valuable because more people will buy her for this quality. The women’s features and qualities are being marketed as selling points that are ideologically better and because that is what institutionally sells. I want to draw a parallel from the lighter skin to the marketing of youth and of children in sex trafficking because there are people out there that exclusively prefer children and adolescents, as there are people who prefer lighter skin.

In Walking Prey

In Walking Prey, we actually see an example of this parallel of the idea of children sex slaves as a selling point. We see this when Holly says she believed some of the men who bought her were pedophiles and that she thinks Nicki took her to a corner known for juvenile prostitution (Smith, 2014, p. 101). Greg knew Holly was young in fact he and Nicki counted on her young appearance appealing to the market of Johns who prefer children and juveniles. Furthermore, these were just the cases were Holly experienced sexual assault when she was under Greg and Nicki’s control as a juvenile sex slave, this does not even count the boys and men who had sexual interactions with Holly before she was fourteen and a sex slave.

In Walking Prey, we also see multiple examples of the entitlement to a girl’s body not only from her trafficker but also from other men before she was ever even a victim of sex trafficking. When Greg raped Holly because he had to “test his goods” he was representing a perfect example of an entitled trafficker (Smith, 2014, p. 106). To him Holly was nothing more than his property to do with as he saw fit. However, men and boys felt entitled to Holly multiple times throughout her story, from her cousin sexually assaulting her for his own curiosity to all the others who used her for their own pleasure.

In Holly’s story she also expresses not understanding that her body was not something she had to exchange for another thing, that her body was not a commodity to be traded in exchange for other things. Holly fell under the belief that her body was a commodity and not her’s to control. However, she believed this false assumption even before Greg and Nicki trafficked her, because she had spoken of how she had used sex to get a ride to the mall the day she met with Greg and how she thought she had to (Smith, 2014, p. 110). She most likely learned this acceptance of men’s entitlement from her past sexual assaults.

Victim Recruitment

Victim recruitment is an essential part of any sex trafficking operation. One of the reasons recruiters are so successful is because they recognize the risk factors in potential victims and exploit them to their advantage. Women and children who come from troubled or “broken homes” are more vulnerable and pose the most at risk for becoming victims of human trafficking. Being a more withdrawn, not fitting in with peers, and a lack of assertiveness are all risk factors that recruiters will look for in potential victims. According to the textbook, since many victims come from poverty they are often attracted to the wealthy or successful men, however, coming from poverty the idea of wealth and success are relative and the men just have to be well off enough to provide for them. The middle class victims, however, are not immune to the draw of the wealthy and successful man.

The book expresses how fatherless homes pose a great risk factor, but the vulnerability is mainly a psychological one. The absence of a father figure creates a need for a “strong male figure” so much so that the need for this relationship will drive victims into the hands of recruiters. Recruiters will tout the fantasy of being a family to potential victims, which these victims often crave desperately. However, while they create the fantasy of family for these victims they also may isolate them thus making them feel that all they have is their recruiter/pimp.

In the textbook the authors address that recruiters will “employ a variety of means to recruit victims, but essentially they employ both carrots and sticks to entice and motivate victims” (Burke, 2018, p. 289). To explain further, carrots would be rewarding them for good behavior and sticks mean punishing them for bad behavior. An example of a carrot would be the trafficker buying his girls nice things and the stick would be him beating or starving the girls for not making enough money.

Traffickers also can use the Internet to their advantage in recruitment. Recruiting using the Internet holds many advantages for them. First it allows them to “recruit a larger number of victims”, second it allows them to “exploit a larger geographic area,” and lastly it allows the to retain anonymity and “misrepresent their identities” (Burke, 2018, p. 290-291).

There are several types of “recruitment/motivation mechanisms” the most common types are the following: “Romeo/finesse traffickers, gorilla trafficker, drug-supplier traffickers, and creditor traffickers” (Burke, 2018, p.289). Romeo traffickers will feign romantic relationships with prospective girls, while a finesse trafficker does not have to use romance to con a girl he will use his charisma and style to persuade the girls to do what he wants. Gorilla traffickers are probably what most think of when they think of a trafficker, this is because gorilla traffickers control their victims using threats and acts of violence. While a lot of traffickers may use drugs and alcohol to keep their girls complaint a drug supplier trafficker is different he will get the girls hooked or prey on addicts and used their addiction to make them do what he wants in exchange for their fix. Finally the creditor trafficker uses an owed debt to force the victims to perform sexual acts. These types of traffickers can be intersectional meaning a trafficker can employ more than one of these mechanism and fall under both categories of trafficker. The textbook uses the example that if the Romeo method is not effective on a girl the trafficker may switch to the gorilla method.

In Walking Prey

Holly had several factors that made her a vulnerable to traffickers like Greg and his cousin. One factor is Holly’s bad relationship with her parents and their lack of attention to her. Holly did not have solid friend connections, as her only friend Crystal was not really the best of friends for Holly, this left Holly still feeling alone. Holly believed Nicki could be her friend too in reality Nicki did not even like Holly. Holly was also vulnerable because of her personality, she was shy, craved a boyfriend, had past sexual abuse that had been covered up by her parents, and traits of borderline personality disorder. In Holly’s relationships before Greg and with Greg she assumes that any male attention is better than no attention. Holly, in addition, fits the type traffickers target that were mentioned earlier such as being more withdrawn, not fitting in with peers, and a lack of assertiveness. Like many other victims Holly believed staying with Greg and Nicki was better than returning home and she felt it was her fault that she got herself in this situation.

Greg’s cousin who Holly actually talked with on the phone would be classified as a finesse trafficker, because he is described as being good at gaining girls trust and enticing Holly via lies about his famous connections (Smith, 2014, p. 6). His lies of his connections acted as an enticing carrot and a pulling factor. Greg’s cousin also talked to Holly for a while getting to know her and pretending to care, which Holly seemed to desire, a friend, someone to care.

Greg on the other hand was more skilled at spotting vulnerable girls and he actually trafficked the girls. While it is not completely clear what kind of trafficker Greg would be from the five categories it is possible he could be a mix between finesse and gorilla trafficker. Finesse trafficker because he did buy the girls nice things, such as when he bought Holly shoes (Smith, 2014, p. 6). However, there is only slight evidence of Greg being a gorilla trafficker because he was described as being cold and mean, and while he was not described as beating the girls he did rape them.

Trauma

The textbook defines trauma as “an experience that threatens one’s sense of safety and security, and may or may not involve physical harm” (Burke, 2018, p. 310). There is a large pool of experiences that can cause trauma or be categorized as a traumatic event and human trafficking and sexual violence are a few of them. Trauma in childhood is a major risk factor that greatly can affect ones chances of experiencing exploitation later in life.

After traumatic events, it is likely for survivors to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or post-traumatic stress symptoms. Symptoms can present themselves within the first two weeks after sexual assault or even years after the trauma. However, the difference between PTSD and post-traumatic stress symptoms, also referred to as partial PTSD, is that PTSD has to four symptom clusters that lasts over a month if not for the rest of the survivors life and cause a major disruption to their ability to function in everyday life.

The four clusters of PTSD are as follows: intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations in cognition or mood, and heightened arousal. The first cluster is intrusion and its symptoms are of distressing dreams, dissociative reaction, and “include memories of the event, which are involuntary, intrusion, distressing” (Burke, 2018, p. 311). Avoidance is the next cluster and as the name suggests is “characterized by efforts to avoid thoughts of feelings associated with the trauma” and avoidance of external triggers (Burke, 2018, p. 311). Negative alterations in cognition or mood is a newer addition to the list of clusters and refers a broad range of symptoms with some being negative beliefs about oneself, distorted thoughts of guilt, feelings of detachment, and the inability to feel positive emotions. Heightened arousal is the final cluster and it is characterized “by irritability, recklessness, exaggerated startle response, and problems with concentration (Burke, 2018, p. 311).

Two of the types of treatment therapies that the book discusses are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and cognitive-processing therapy (CPT). CBT uses, as the name suggests, “cognitive and behavioral approaches to change dysfunctional thoughts, feelings, and behaviors” of the victim via techniques “such as exposure therapy, thought stopping, and breathing regulation” (Burke, 2018, p. 318). CPT is founded on understanding how trauma affects a survivors’ life and its main goal is to help survivors heal via overcoming “the self-blame, changes in belief systems, overgeneralizations, and distortions that occur as a result of trauma” (Burke, 2018, p. 318). Cognitive-behavioral therapy has shown to be immensely effective, whether alone or paired with other types of therapy. While therapy is a huge benefit to trauma victims, it is also a mainly Western culture idea, so it is not uncommon for other cultures to seek healing through other methods. Some of these other methods are yoga, folk healing, and the use of pharmaceuticals, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Therapist should work within the “therapeutic window” or “the client’s ability to feel without repeating familiar destructive behaviors” (Burke, 2018, p. 320). The textbook does not expand on the idea of the “therapeutic window.” However, it is believed to mean working during a critical timeframe with the victim

In Walking Prey

In the book Walking Prey, the survivor talks about how therapy should be immediate after rescue if it is to be effective (Smith, 2014, p. 141). Holly’s experience was even more terrible because they did not work within this window of time were their help was most needed and would have been most effective, instead Holly was sent home and her trauma symptoms exacerbated. Holly states that survivors after rescue should be stabilized medically and psychiatrically as first priority then placed in a long-term care or an intermediate program (Smith, 2014, p. 141). Survivors who seek therapy during the “therapeutic window” have better chances.

Holly recognizes that trauma seen by survivors can cause PTSD regardless of if the trauma occurred before, during, or after the exploitation. It is stated that PTSD can be a risk factor or an effect of exploitation. While it is not clear whether Holly had PTSD or post-traumatic stress symptoms but she explains that she did have symptoms that were likely indicators of these. However, Holly’s unaddressed childhood trauma from her multiple sexual assaults could clearly be understood now as an early indicator of her future trauma she would endure. Holly also writes a snippet about Mandi Lynn Bowman, who after experiencing multiple cases of rape, becoming a prostitute, and suffered from PTSD and bipolar mental illness, which is another instance that shows this link between childhood trauma and future exploitation.

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