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 *Part Two of a four-part series

 ~by Amy Lynn Burch

Originally published on April 8, 2012 @ 7:51pm


The Mind of the Trafficker

The first step to combating human trafficking is to understand how one comes to be bought and sold like a commodity.  The trafficker, (or pimp), does not see the humanity of his or her victims but only sees a product to be sold. Traffickers go out of their way to dehumanize their victims through a multitude of abusive behaviors to ensure repeated profits. Traffickers target the weak and vulnerable, and are masters at using force, fraud, deception, and coercion to meet their ends, hence, the reason that the majority of victims are children. In the recruitment process traffickers go out of their way to gain the trust of their victims for purposes of gaining complete control over their personal will and bodies.


Initial Recruiting Behavior

False love and feigned affection are critical tools used by the trafficker against their victims in attaining long-term mind control. This tactic often includes: gifts; complements; physical/sexual affection; and feigned warmth or concern for the victims well-being. Accompanied by this behavior are grand promises for a better life, luxury, and/or fast money. Once trust is gained and the victim is separate from her (or his) environment, the tactics abruptly change toward abusive conditioning.


Breakdown or “Seasoning” of Victims

Seasoning is a well documented systematic process replicated worldwide by traffickers designed to not only break the will of a victim but to also erase their identity as a person. It involves repeated combinations of physical, emotional, and psycho-social abuse to include, but not limited to: beatingslappingor whipping with either hands or objectsburning or either a person or personal items or bothsexual assault; confinement; starvationre-naming in which a person is given a nickname and punished for using their birth nameemotional abusedocument confiscation; and forced sexual education through pornography.


From Person to Property

Once the transfer of power has been made the victim becomes personal property enslaved to what is known as debt bondage.  Debt bondage is the term used by traffickers which represents a fictitious and never ending amount of money which the victim owes the trafficker(s) for “rescuing” them from their previous situation. Once enslaved to the trafficker the victim is controlled and forced to “work” long and arduous hours enduring abusive and degrading behavior for up to 18 hours per day without the benefit of pay or basic needs. These collect methods of force, fraud, and coercion drive the never ending cycle of abuse.


Hidden in Plain Sight

Victims are often disguised, as it were, as exotic dancers, porn actresses, massage parlor and brothel workers, escorts, and so-called streetwalkers.  They are seen everyday by millions of people to include law enforcement but are rarely recognized for what they truly are: human beings and victims of an evil and illegal trade. When acknowledged by law enforcement they are often misidentified as criminals rather than victims then summarily run through a legal system which cares nothing about them. This being the case, the question often arises:


Why don’t they just seek help?

As previously stated, at the global level foreign nationals, specifically women between the ages of twenty-one and fifty, are trafficked into locations where they do not know the language, are held captive, are not allowed to keep their earnings, and have no documentation to support their identity. Additionally, the mindset of the victim once subjected to repeated abuse is grossly distorted.


Mindset of the Victim

For long-term victims of sexual trafficking, self blaming is often a primary obstacle in seeing oneself as a victim rather than a willing participant.  As a result, they fail to self identity as victims.  Additionally, although the life of a trafficking victim is hard is may very well be better than her (or his) original home life from which they have “escaped”. Sadly, many victims within the United States are foreign nationals with limited English language skills therefore communicating their victimization is difficult if not impossible. Still other victims are ignorant of the laws available to protect them.  Even more victims are simply distrustful of law enforcement.  Having been misidentified repeatedly by law enforcement as criminals rather than victims adds to this environment of mistrust.

*Don’t miss Part Three: Human Trafficking and the Law


Bartol, Curt R., & Bartol, Ann M. (2008). Criminal Behavior: A psychological approach (8th ed.). Pearson – Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ

Burch, A. (2012). National Reintegration Center for Human Trafficking Victims. Victimology, University of Maryland.

Department of Defense. Trafficking In Persons (TIP). https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:oHNSkT1L6UYJ:ctip.defense.gov/docs/training-TIP-LE.ppt+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESg6JaJ3DPziU8gqTAA31kyq6box8Z5fT1SO-Yhn_7lZxr2gEc4uukZrkG9tU61msAniABD-OzAQ4sRVI_QTZJ2G5bXR0XbvUfmZIPzsEBxfImoEz95Ei-HlOKyhhMYv90zuNqDh&sig=AHIEtbS1sM0WRpwxpK5xC8lkHcCTvMr_gQ&pli=1

Polaris Project. (no date). Domestic Sex Trafficking: The Criminal Operations of the American Pimp. A Condensed Guide for Service Providers and Law Enforcement. http://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/victims/humantrafficking/vs/documents/Domestic_Sex_Trafficking_Guide.pdf

ProCon.org. http://prostitution.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000119 

© Amy Lynn Burch 2008 – 2012 

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