Urban Sex Trafficking: Victims Are Hidden in Plain Sight

Hidden in Plain Sight: Victims of Urban Trafficking

What is Urban Trafficking aka Urban Sex Trafficking? The African American Juvenile Justice Project, #FemaleNOTFeemale and Attorney Sherri Jefferson defines “Urban Trafficking” in America as a concept of approaching the experiences of victims of sex trafficking within urban, suburban and rural corridors whose pimps, purchasers and profiteers rely upon and take advantage of metropolitan areas (epicenters or urban centers) to traffick women and children.

For the last decade, America has emphasized international and domestic “human trafficking” with details to labor and sexual victimization of women from Asia, India, and Russia. However, urban trafficking victims are born within the United States; many are from urban corridors that rely upon solicitation of girls from surrounding areas to urban centers. For example: rural (small townships) and suburban communities outside of the city limits of Atlanta, Georgia or Long Island, New York, which is outside of the 5 boroughs of New York City, etc. An urban trafficking victim generally includes girls from inner city and small townships, underserved and single parent households.

Most of the girls are African-American and non-white Hispanic/Latinas. Their pimps are generally African-American males and their Johns/Rapist are generally white males. However, all girls are adversely impacted. Some are as young as 10 years of age and some are college students. Most of these victims are lured into sex trafficking through “modeling” agencies and “music video” production companies, who promise a life of fame, fortune and opportunity. In most urban corridors, these girls are also “exotic dancers” or “strippers” who host parties and private events. Unique to urban trafficking is their gang connections home-based sex parties, black market pornography and video sells, and their services as drug mules. Some of these girls also work in the retail industry to help secure identity information (credit cards, bank accounts, licenses and passport information, etc). This information is used in identity theft rings and forgery rings.

Urban Trafficking victims are solicited or sold via “bookings” on social media sites like Backpages, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others. Urban Trafficking victims are described as “models,” “dancers” and in some circles as “fashion designers” and “video (vixen) models.” Their agents are actually pimps - mostly males, but also females - and their clients are Johns/rapist. Some girls do not use "pimps" to solicit their services. Many live their life based upon the words and video scenes in Rihinna's song "You needed me." While some may even appear in a video or two, their services are sold and they are subject to sexual victimization.

These victims are more likely to be prosecuted for prostitution. Most of them remain in this lifestyle due to fear and duress, but also because of the collateral consequences associated with being arrested or prosecuted for prostitution or prostitution related offense. Most are denied programs and services. Many of them are subject to stereotypes of being hyper sexualized beings lacking control of their sexual desires. They wear very provocative clothing and appear online with very little or no clothing at all. Most of them appear on Instagram and are continuously uploading different photos and videos. They are hidden in plain sight.

The experiences of sex trafficking victims from urban corridors are different from recruitment, to forced sexual victimization, their attempts to escape and their efforts to seek justice. Most of these victims are hidden in plain sight, but they are victims of urban trafficking. The AAJJP, #FemaleNOTFeemale and Attorney Sherri Jefferson calls upon the federal, state and local authorities to shutdown websites that lure girls into these industries and social media sites, which promote these services. Furthermore, federal, state and local authorities are called upon to monitor the social media sites, which promote bookings and direct messages (aka DM) to arrange sexual encounters.