Sociologically related to my previous post is CNN’s “Old mark of slavery is being used on sex trafficking victims”. Remember, though, the black men perpetrating this phenomenon are the real victims:
A clear sign of that life is tattooed in big bold letters across her chest.
“This right here,” she said pointing to her tattoo. “I call it my wall wound. I got it when I was 14 years old, and he was one of my pimps,” she said.
Adriana’s trafficker had persuaded her to have his name tattooed across her chest.
“It lets other pimps know that this is their property,” said Vice Sgt. Ron Fisher of the Los Angeles Police Department in Van Nuys. Fisher has seen untold numbers of them as his unit works the streets and the Internet, trying to find underage girls being trafficked.
Police and anti-trafficking advocates are seeing those brands on girls more and more in recent years.
“The first time I became aware of this was probably five years ago. It’s just another way to control them [the girls], and let other pimps know that, ‘Hey, this individual belongs to me,'” LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza said. The branding shows up all over the girls’ bodies.
An old-fashioned looking moneybag tattooed on the arm. “F— You, Pay Me” tattooed on a girl’s neck. Large initials tattooed on a girl’s face. The initials “ATM” tattooed near a girl’s crotch. A trafficker’s name tattooed across a girl’s thighs. A bar code tattooed across a girl’s wrist, like an item in a grocery store. The practice is not new. It used to be done by slave owners using brands on slaves to show ownership. Now it’s back in a different form, but for the same horrible purpose.
Child advocate Lois Lee explained the girls don’t see it that way, at least not at first. Lee should know; for 30 years she has been running an organization called Children of the Night that houses, educates, and tries to give girls a chance at a different life.
“They see it differently. They belong to somebody. It’s important to them. Someone has claimed me. Now I belong to a group.” Lee said that is how the girls often feel about the brands when they first come in her door.
Adriana was no exception.
“I was proud to have it,” Adriana said. “It says I’m for you. I will never leave you. If I mark up my body for you, risk my life for you. I’ll do anything for you.”
And indeed she did, almost…
Her “new life” started at 13. Adriana said she was rebelling and decided to run away from home, where her father was raising her. Her mother wasn’t part of the equation, and Adriana decided she’d go out on her own. She said she may have been young, but she was no fool, and at the very least she knew she needed money.
One night, she said, she went to a party just down the street from her house. That’s where home life turned into street life.
She met a guy who said all the right things, promising her big money, fancy cars and a lavish lifestyle. Then, she said, he introduced her to some girls who were decked out in nice clothes, their hair and nails done. Their lives seemed golden.
“I thought they were awesome. I thought they were beautiful. I loved their bright clothes. I loved everything about it,” she said…
It didn’t take long for her to learn the lingo: being “chopped” meant a beating — something the trafficker would do if you didn’t bring in enough money. A “wifey” is another girl controlled by the same pimp. “Ho-partners” are controlled by other pimps…
But now, Lee said, gangs are taking over the game. The infamous criminal gangs known for running drugs and guns started pushing the pimps out and taking over the prostitution rings, getting girls to make their money and take the rap when they get arrested. Now that the laws are more stringent against human trafficking, the gangs use the girls for other crimes.
“They are more violent. And because gangs control the girls, they know they serve less time using them for other types of crimes,” Lee said.