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Predators and Prostituted Women

The assumptions that many people have made over the years about prostitution are slowly changing.  A growing field of research is teaching us how to understand prostitution as human trafficking and the intense need for trauma informed care.  More and more groups are forming locally and nationally to raise awareness about the plight of young girls, women and occasionally men who have fallen victim to the sex trafficking industry.  Numerous studies find that prostituted women have a history of trauma and sexual abuse in their childhood.  In larger cities, women cite their early teen years as the time they were recruited or forced into prostitution.  Many turn to drugs to self-medicate as a way to deal with their trauma, while others are manipulated by pimps and traffickers with drugs, and addiction becomes the driving motivation to keep “working”.  More and more law enforcement agencies are targeting the demand side of the equation; men who prey on vulnerable women and girls.

An excellent report from Catherine A. MacKinnon, “Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality” in Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review from 2011 sums this issue up well:

“Street or house, and however they get into the sex trade, prostituted women’s measured level of post-traumatic stress (“PTSD”) is equivalent to that of combat veterans or victims of torture or raped women.  PTSD results from going through atrocities you cannot mentally sustain.  It often accompanies dissociation:  you put the violation away, leave mentally, repress or deny it or act like it is not there inside you, disappear the self who knows it happened to get through the day.  Often women in prostitution are addicted to drugs; many use substantial amounts of alcohol, too, as a result of what they are going through.  Sometimes the drugs are pushed on them by pimps to addict them.  The substances partially numb the pain of the constantly re-inflicted trauma, distancing the body and psyche somewhat from what is being done, as well as make her dependent on the pimp for the next fix.” (MacKinnon p288).

With the ease of access that the internet brings, the perpetrators are able to respond to ads and travel to meet up with a prostituted woman.  Just this year, Dayton Police set up a sting operation with ads posted on the internet for a college age young woman near University of Dayton during the First Four NCAA tournament in March.  Over a three day period, 13 men were arrested, many of them married with children, and a few with drugs that they wanted the female officer posing as a prostituted woman to use with them.  During this operation Dayton Police also arrested two women who were advertised on the internet for prostitution.  Click here to access the article about one of the arrests.

But even if you refuse to believe the research revealing prostituted women as victims, there are many victims beyond the woman or young girl that is purchased.  Dayton neighborhoods are impacted by street level prostitution.  It affects the business corridors and surrounding homes.  Innocent women and girls are solicited as they walk down the street.  Sometimes it is a subtle and discreet like a car that follows a woman and waits at the next cross street and then leaves as she passes.  Others are far more obnoxious and aggressive, loudly verbally soliciting any female, sometimes in a threatening manner.

Young middle school girls shared their experiences in the youth empowerment play called “Playground Revolution” that they wrote with East End staff two years ago. They described how they felt unsafe and worried about the creepy older men that pull up offering them a ride.

Youth shared stories of violent video games like Grand Theft Auto that encourage the gamer to pick up a prostituted woman and after the sex act, kill her to get the virtual money back and advance in the game.  Adult women have reported to staff that even the subtle solicitation of a man following them in the car, circling them repeatedly, made them feel like they were being stalked and should go home and change their clothes–as if clothing mattered.  It does not.

Many people are under the impression that street level prostitution looks something like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or other movie and television characters. That glamorous depiction of prostitution could not be farther from the truth.  Women in Dayton do not wear short skirts or tight dresses, or high heels with a lot of jewelry or makeup.  The overwhelming majority of women prostituted on Dayton streets are wearing jeans, old tennis shoes, a t-shirt or sweatshirt.  The average prostitute in Dayton might have her hair up in a ponytail.  Many are often desperate for money with nearly all of it going for their heroin or drug addiction.  Some are homeless, hungry and desperate.  She looks just like many other women in the neighborhood who are struggling in poverty.

What does this mean for the community?  YOU can make a difference!

-Neighbors, parents and volunteers are needed to track court cases, especially for repeat offenders arrested for trolling up and down our streets looking for vulnerable women and girls to exploit.

-Neighbors, parents and volunteers are needed for street outreach and assisting women in recovery.

-Neighbors, parents and volunteers are needed to mentor our youth as positive role models that care and help build the 40 critical developmental assets needed to be successful and safe.

-Take down the license plate of vehicles that follow you or solicit you.  Call 333-COPS immediately or Miami Valley Crimestoppers at 222-STOP.

In our community and beyond, there are girls, women, mothers, and sisters that are being beaten or abused, are scared or losing hope.  If you know a woman who needs help please be a SUPERHERO and share these numbers:

Oasis for Women 937-898-7811 —helps women who want out of prostitution and freedom from drugs.

Artemis Center 937-222-SAFE (7233) —24 hour hotline that helps women who are being controlled emotionally, financially and physically by their partner find safety and help.

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