In a recent radio piece, WGBH’s Phillip Martin explored forced prostitution in East Asia. That’s a problem in the Puget Sound region, too.
Pimps here often prey on young girls who’ve run away from home. Detective Todd Novisedlak of the Seattle Police Department says that in some ways it’s similar to cases in Vietnam. He said traffickers here, too, prey on young girls’ susceptibility to fall in love.
More often than not, she doesn’t know that he’s a pimp and that’s what makes these guys so particularly good at what they do. They’re predators. They will go after girls that are very susceptible, naïve, looking for generally something that they’re lacking in their lives and something that a lot of young girls naturally want: attention, to be showered with compliments, gifts, a boyfriend. They want a male role model that takes care of them and the pimp takes advantage of the girl falling in love with the pimp.
Novisedlak said pimps don’t need to hold a gun to a girl’s head to get her to stand on the corner. They use other types of coercion.
This is all part of the pimp’s plan. By this point, the girl has already been engaging in prostitution. She’s probably also been engaging in theft and narcotics transactions with the pimp. And so now the pimp can hold all of that over the girl’s head. Now the relationship, the boyfriend/girlfriend, it comes to a screeching halt. He takes off that mask and he lets her know right then what’s going on. He’s the pimp, she’s the prostitute - and he’ll play that card. He'll humiliate her. He’ll threaten to let the family know what she’s been doing. He’ll threaten to go to the police. And if that doesn’t work, then the pimps can ramp up the threats, letting the girls know that they know where they live, they know who their family members are - and just use that implied threat of force. Once again, they’ve never had to raise a hand to the girl. They’ve never had to put a gun to their head.
Novisedlak believes public awareness is the best tool against forced prostitution.
I just don’t think people realize that we’re not talking about consenting adults. We’re talking about 14- and 15-year-old victims, if not younger. And even the adults once they hit 18, they’re not consenting. There’s always a victim here. It’s the girl who’s being commercially sexually exploited by the pimp. All you have to do is know what to look for and keep your eyes open and you’ll see how absolutely rampant it is in certain sections of the city.