Cover Story From Volume 2 - Issue 1
By: David Lyda (From: Volume 2 - Issue 1)
“16 And I will bring the blind by a way [that] they knew not; I will lead them in paths [that] they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
God loves people, and He wants to redeem them. There are many men and women that seem hopeless. They are so blinded by darkness and held by their situation, that the world doesn’t see how they could turn around. When it comes to drug addicts, murderers, and prostitutes; the church may often overlook their plight. Our Lord has not forsaken them. Where there is a need, God has called believers to step up. Where there seems to be no hope, God has called His light bearers to show there is redemption. It is in the only true hope, Jesus Christ. If we (the Christians) do not answer God’s call to witness, the very stones will cry out!
A burden for those covered in darkness was placed upon the founder of Switch 42:16, a name based upon Isaiah 42:16. In 2010, a call to fight human trafficking in Greenville County began. Prayer and studying paved the way for Switch 42:16’s establishment in November 2012. Soon, it officially became a non-profit organization. This ministry is seeking to shine light upon an often overlooked darkness. Human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, is a problem all over the world. Simply put, human trafficking is when a person is forced against their will to work and give the profit to another person. Many of the victims are specifically used for sex trafficking, where people are forced to work in the commercial sex trade.
Second only to drugs as a criminal industry, it is estimated that 2.5 million people are victims of human trafficking at any given time. This industry brings tens of billions of dollars to the perpetrators each year. Europe is the destination for many worldwide victims, and Asian victims are sent to the most parts of the world. The Americas are definitely not impervious to this crime. It is the destination and origin of many of those in human trafficking.
Greenville County, SC is possibly one of the worst areas for human trafficking in the United States. A prominent place right between Atlanta and Charlotte, many international victims find their way into our area. Those in the business of human trafficking and particularly sex trafficking, play upon the fact that we are located right in the Bible Belt. Many law abiding citizens simply think, “That couldn’t happen here.” The truth is, it does.
Who are the victims that Switch 42:16 is reaching out to help? Many of the girls who are trafficked are between the ages of 12 and 14, although people of all ages, sexes, and ethnicities are exploited. They come from a variety of situations. Many American victims come from terrible economic circumstances and abuses. Some are runaways, and multiple children are even sold for debts or drugs. International victims may be forced into the sex industry to pay off smuggling debts to get them in the country. There are also several cases of women and men being kidnapped and placed into this bondage. Whatever the circumstances or situations, there are many people being used in human trafficking. In the United States and Greenville County, sex trafficking is a huge problem.
The internet is one of the main sources for traffickers, pimps, and johns (those seeking sex for hire). Between 10,000-16,000 advertisements for sex were found daily when the Craigslist Adult Services Section was active in the United States. This startling figure accounts for only an estimated 40% of the online sex ads. It is a huge business, and in 2008, the FBI found that 2,800 of the Craigslist sex ads were for prostituted children. The internet is not the only source for seeking paid sex, and there are a multitude of places for people to buy it.
There are more than 5,000 massage parlors nationwide that are actually brothels. Shocking as it may be, there are actually 6 such massage parlors in Greenville, SC. Many of the women in these establishments are Asian immigrants forced into prostitution to pay off traffickers who smuggled them into the country. This is not a prior agreement but a situation that the victims are tricked into once they arrive. The women are forced to live on the premises and are cutoff from the outside world. They generally work 7 days a week and have sex with 6 to 10 men daily. In addition to the internet, the fake massage parlors are often advertised on billboards.
Residential brothels are another popular outlet for sex trafficking. Latin American victims are often found in these houses. Some are forced into the situation in a similar way to the Asian victims through smuggling fees. They too can be lured into it by traffickers/pimps who feign romance and pose as their boyfriends. The residential brothels are frequently closed to any johns/clients who are not Latino. Their services are primarily advertised through word of mouth and business cards called tarjetas. The women in these brothels generally work 7 hour days from 10am-10pm. It is not unusual for them to have sex with men every 15 minutes, totaling 25-48 men a day. Many of the women are also forced to have abortions.
Paid sex can often be found at strip clubs and hostess clubs. Those working in this industry are often adults, but children are sometimes found there. Not all the women in these clubs are prostitutes, but it does become sex trafficking when their employer requires sex. Labor trafficking is also found in many of the hostess clubs where women are forced to serve drinks and act as a sort of waitress against their will. The hostess clubs are often connected to fake massage parlors in the area. Those in sex trafficking can be from the US, but many of the women in the strip clubs are also from Eastern Europe and Russia. They are frequently controlled by pimps, and the club owners consider them as independently contracted rather than employees of the club. Sex with clients often occurs in bathrooms, VIP sections, and lap dance areas. It is not uncommon for the strip clubs and hostess clubs to be tied to organized crime.
Escort services, which really utilize the internet, are where pimps or agencies arrange sex for clients. The pimps often pose as the women online, or they force them to advertise themselves. The sex acts can take place at the location of the john or at a location setup by the pimp. The escorts (who are sometimes males) are monitored by their pimps and are required to give them some if not all of the money. The victims can be minors and adults, and they are from the US and abroad.
Sex trafficking is well established at truck stops across the nation. The pimps advertise online and over the CB radio. Truckers will often signal their desire for a prostitute by using their headlights or having particular stickers on their trucks. Prostitutes also simply knock on cab doors soliciting sex. They are many times forced by their pimps to collect $500-$1,000 a night. This can especially be difficult for the women when sex acts can range from $5-$100. Pimps sometimes take further advantage of the truckers by having the prostitutes steal their wallets, or their cargo may be stolen while the sex act is taking place. Fake massage parlors also target truckers, and billboards can generally be found at or near the truck stops.
The most commonly recognized type of sex trafficking is street prostitution. Many of the women (and girls as young as 12) are from the United States, and they are the most vulnerable to arrest of anyone in the sex industry. Their visibility on the street is the reason for this, but their pimps generally bail them out each time. They are also the most vulnerable to assault from the johns. Pimps control and take the money, which is usually from 1-15 men daily. The glorification of pimps in Pop Culture truly overshadows the evil that they perpetrate. On the flip side, those in the world’s oldest profession (prostitution), find themselves treated harshly because of the social stigma.
Many may ask, if those in sex trafficking are victims, why do they stay in their situation? There is a wide array of reasons for this. Most if not all of the people forced into sex labor have terrible family backgrounds that make them prone to being manipulated by the sex traffickers. This can include sexual abuse, physical abuse, drug abuse, poverty, or even just “daddy” issues. Violence is often used or threatened against the victims and/or their families. Psychological abuse is almost always a factor, and many of the women are raped repeatedly by their pimps and/or other men to force them into submission. Pimps many times convince their women to distrust police because they say the law will view them as “just prostitutes” and won’t help. Those from other countries have their passports or IDs taken, they’re threatened with deportation or arrest, they face language barriers, they are restricted or confined to their location, or they can simply be unfamiliar with the laws. The men and women in the sex industry also find themselves “trapped”, not knowing how to function outside of that world. Drugs are an issue that affects many as well. Crack often being the drug of choice for street prostitutes.