Brittany, 14, walked down the hallway of the hotel. She knocked on the door and a middle-aged man answered, wearing only his pants. “Hi,” he said. She walked in. She had on tight jeans, a T-shirt and a black suede purse with fringe. She smiled, but her smile never reached her eyes. She walked to the window and laid her purse down. “I need the money upfront,” she said.
Brittany got a faraway look in her eye as she thought back to the past. “ I thought I was turning tricks it willingly, but I felt that I had to do it. I had agreed to, hadn’t I?” she said. “I never thought about it as human trafficking or child abuse, but when you’re 14-years-old and the man who you are working for is in his 30s, what else is it? How can a 14-year-old make that decision for themselves?”
Today Brittany, 39, is a student at the University of Arkansas and the mother of two. She stayed in prostitution for much of her adult life, only getting out permanently six years ago. “Prostitution, like all easy money jobs, has an addiction to it. You convince yourself it’s nothing personal, it’s all about the money and the power, while it is ravaging your soul.” Brittany talks about prostitution as “working,” or “going to work.” It was her job.
Brittany explains that over the years she worked for five local escort agencies, all of which charged $200 an hour, with the agency getting half and the Brittany getting half. Tips were encouraged and belonged to the escort. Of course, charging for sex was illegal, but Brittany explained that she was not charging for sex but for her time and if sex just happened to occur during that time, well, that was fine. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes reports that the sex business generates $32 billion a year.
The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) considers prostitution by anyone under 18-years-old human trafficking, because a person under the age of 18 is unable to give their consent in regard to prostitution and today Brittany concurs.
The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that there are two million children worldwide being exploited in the sex trade today. It is estimated that over 162,000 teenagers are prostitutes in the U.S. In the United States the average age of a prostitute is 14 to 16, and the first time they were approached about it is at school, ages 11 to 12,
In March, 2010, Alvin Robertson, a former Razorback basketball player, was arrested in Bentonville, Ark., for kidnapping a 14-year-old girl and forcing her into prostitution. (Article) Not For Sale, an anti-human trafficking organization, reports that Robertson is charged with trafficking of persons under 18 for prostitution, sexual assault of a child and sexual performance of a child, all felonies.
“I never realized how prostitution would affect my life,” Brittany said. “I didn’t know that I would go through years of self-hatred and depression, before I began to get healing for my past.” She also became a drug addict. Today she has been clean for approximately five years. She wishes that someone had been a voice for her many years ago.
She credits God for getting her off the streets. That and the love of some fellow Christians. “I never knew what love was. I never knew I was lovable. Some people being Christ to me, Christ with skin, helped me begin to heal.”
(This is the first part in a two part series of the faces of human trafficking. The next installment will look at other aspects of human trafficking.)