Updated: Dec 8, 2022
There are many different avenues of human trafficking. Familial trafficking is commonly overlooked. Familial trafficking occurs when a family member or guardian becomes the victim’s trafficker in exchange for goods, substances, rent, services, money, or status within a community. In reality, family members are often likely to be a child’s first trafficker. According to Polaris 2018 Fact Sheet, 27% of sex trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2018 were instances where a family member was involved in the selling of the victim. Poverty is commonly a weighing factor in these situations. Poverty causes people to go into survival mode. They will do unlikely things to meet their basic needs. Because their brain reacts to immediate stress or danger, their choices are driven more by emotions rather than logic or well-thought-out responses. Survival is what drives many into the life of prostitution. And poverty is often the most common pimp. In an extreme poverty-environment, individuals are often pressured to engage in exploitation to contribute to the home. Prostitution isn’t seen as a “crime” or a “negative” in this situation but more as what is necessary. Many stories, including my own, follow this same pattern.
With permission we will share Rachel's story. (Name changed for privacy)
Rachel grew up with a single mother who had a lot of her own trauma and history of abuse. She didn’t know much of the details of her mom’s life growing up other than that her mom was physically and emotionally abused and left home at a young age. Her mom did the best she could to raise her the way that she knew how. They never had a lot of money and often moved from place to place. Her mom's violent and toxic boyfriends put a strain on Rachel's and her mom’s relationship. When boyfriends were around, Rachel became her mom's second priority. Rachel often saw how they were physically and sexually abusive to her mom. One day one of the boyfriends molested Rachel while her mom was asleep next to them. Rachel never told her mom and was confused about what had happened. Although this boyfriend was abusive, her mom continued to see him because he supported her financially. He took them on vacations and wanted to spend time alone with Rachel. Rachel didn't know how to reconcile this with her mom or if her mom even knew the extent of what was happening. Because of this, there was always a distance between them and likely some jealousy from Rachel’s mom. This made Rachel feel alone and isolated.
As Rachel grew older, she experienced much physical, verbal, and emotional abuse from her mother and, like her mother, ended up leaving home at a young age. She then resorted to prostitution as a means of survival. She was trapped in the commercial sex trade for many years and still felt alone and had nowhere to turn as the relationship between her and her mom was distant, and she didn't have any family to turn to for help or support. At one point, she had to stay with her mom for a short time and didn't have anywhere else to stay. Rachel owed her money but didn’t have a job. Her mom asked her how she was planning to pay since she didn't have a job, but Rachel assured her that she would get her money and not worry about it. Her mom continued to press the question and ask her how she could be sure that she would be able to pay. That was when Rachel shared with her mom that she had been seeing men and having sex with them for money. She shared that she had built up a regular clientele and had a reliable and consistent income. Rachel's mom responded that it was okay and that she used to do the same thing when she was Rachel's age.
That’s when Rachel's mom got involved and became her pimp. Rachel's mom began to help her by keeping track of Rachel's “dates” and the amount of cash she would receive from each guy. She managed Rachel's “appointment calendar” by making sure she got to the meeting spot and came back with the right amount of money. She began budgeting the money coming in from each guy Rachel met with and making sure she was getting paid her due. At the time, Rachel just felt relieved. It felt like a weight off her shoulders, to be honest with her mom and to finally have a connection with her. A connection with her mom was something she had always longed for as a child. Rachel had finally gained the approval of her mom. Rachel loved the way her mom would celebrate her as she would walk in the door with a stack of cash after a long night of escorting. It made Rachel feel so loved to have her attention and praise. The connection that was always missing was now replaced with a bond—a bond over their own little business and hustle.
What Rachel knows now is that she had become a victim of familial trafficking. Her mom had become her pimp. As Rachel walks out her healing journey as a survivor of human trafficking, this is one of many experiences that has come to the light. Rachel understands the brokenness of her mom's past and the effect of generational abuse and generational trafficking that has played a part in this scenario. Rachel has forgiven her mom and continues to reconcile within herself the ways this has impacted her life and relationships with others. Rachel is thriving today despite the trauma and abuse from her past. Rachel has dreams and ambitions to help others exit the commercial sex trade and find their purpose in Christ. Pray for Rachel as she begins her healing journey and helps others with a similar past.