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Why Doesn’t She Just...Leave?

Her trafficker leaves her alone - why doesn’t she call the police or walk out the door?

Traffickers “groom” their victims until they do what they are told, without protest. In previous posts we looked at Romeo and Gorilla pimps: each uses a different style to groom their victims until they are compliant. Once the grooming process is complete the trafficker is confident that there is little chance she or he will try to escape. The victim’s defenses are broken and they are attached (physically, psychologically, emotionally) and controlled. If the victim tries to leave, the chances of succeeding are slim.

1. FEAR. Fear of punishment if caught. He or she might have tried to run many times and suffered the consequences. The pimp may have threatened to hurt their family. Victims fear that they will not be believed and that they will face legal problems and disappointment from friends and family instead of receiving help. 2. LOYALTY. This can come in so many forms – loyalty to family, community, culture, or believe that they are a “girlfriend” of the abuser. Traffickers are often well known to the victim. 3. NO OTHER OPTIONS. The victim does not know where to go for help. They are young and naïve. They do not call the police because they have a deep seated distrust of law enforcement. They are not aware of helplines or services for victims. If the child is a runaway, he or she does not want to contact family or does not have family or friends to contact. 4. NO BELONGINGS. The trafficker might keep their wallet, phone, shoes, even clothes. 5. LOST. If they are moved around frequently by the trafficker, they may not know where they are, not even the city or state. 6. ADDICTION. Many victims become addicts. Traffickers ply them with drugs in the grooming phase to keep them disoriented and compliant. 7. A myriad of emotions: shame, self-blame, hopelessness. The mind games that traffickers play with their victims leaves them believing everything is their fault and no better life could possibly await someone like this after what they have endured and been forced to experience.

8. DISTRUST OF LAW ENFORCEMENT. They may have tried to seek help before, only to find themselves arrested for prostitution. Many victims come from communities and backgrounds with deep-seated distrust of law enforcement, and traffickers will play on that fear.

9. SURVIVAL. To a child who feels like they have nowhere else to go, the promise of shelter, a shower and food is a relief. They think, “well, this is better than nothing”. For a malnourished, sleep-deprived child who sees no other options, it’s difficult to honk past the very basics of survival.

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