Tricked into prostitution

Dozens of former pimps admit tricking you women into the trade

09/29/2010 10:00 PM

By ALLISON ROY, Medill News Service

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Two dozen former Chicago pimps acknowledged that they tricked young vulnerable women into selling themselves, according to a study released this month by DePaul University researchers.

The men said they would look for young desperate women who had run away or were out on the street, offered them affection and then isolated them to emotionally bind them.

"I liked to get my best girls from another state and bring them back where they knew no one and I was their only friend and focus," one pimp said in the survey.

In the study, "From Victims to Victimizers: Interviews with 25 ex-pimps in Chicago," authors Jody Raphael and longtime former prostitute Brenda Myers-Powell found that the business model for sex trafficking has been universalized to create a $9 billion industry that continues to thrive off the work of young women and girls who sell their bodies without seeing a single dollar of their earnings.

"You have the pimp or trafficker out on the streets trying to identify runaways and young girls who need the money and are very prone to ideas of romance to rope them into going out for [the pimps] and selling their bodies," Raphael said. "They are victims who need to be treated as victims, not criminals."

Raphael, a senior research fellow at DePaul University College of Law, told the story of a 16-year-old-girl who was recovered in a police sting after being prostituted out of a hotel room for six months. She said the girl was three months pregnant, had been thrown out of her house by her parents and was living in the Woodfield Mall when a woman befriended her and took her home to deliver the baby.

The woman, Raphael said, turned out to be a pimp and convinced the girl to work for her, servicing several customers a night. The police sent a prostitution survivor to talk to the girl and bring her to a shelter but she ran away after only two hours.

Raphael created a 91-question survey for the study, which was administered to each of the 25 former pimps by Myers-Powell. Myers-Powell, a survivor of 25 years of prostitution, now works as a peer coordinator for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dartís prostitution intervention team and serves as an advocate for the Dreamcatcher Foundation, which provides support services for victims of the sex trade.

More than 20,000 women are prostituted annually in the Chicago metropolitan area alone, according to the Cook County Commission on Womenís Issues. Pimps said that with the help of the Internet, MySpace and Craigslist, the business keeps getting easier.

Pimps said that they also paid law enforcement in order to keep operations going as well as cab drivers, bartenders and bellhops for referring customers.

"If people want somebody to blame for this, they need to look in the mirror," said another pimp surveyed. "We all contribute to this stuff one way or the other. If we didnít, there wouldnít be so much money to be made."

Only 32 percent of the pimps interviewed said they regretted their involvement in the sex trade.

Raphael said many who began to have doubts about pimping needed to look no further than the never-ending line of customers willing to pay for sex.

"Everybodyís jumped on the bandwagon," she said. "Customers are falling out of the trees."

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