This trafficking case brings to light several of the grooming tactics that are often used with teens and adults who are exploited and trafficked.
The first one is the connection between child sexual abuse material or CSAM (which was previously known as child pornography) and sex trafficking. Many traffickers create CSAM of their victims for several reasons
They can use it as sextortion to make a child comply with their wishes
They use CSAM to normalize abuse and groom children into understanding how to “please” a customer
They can use it as advertisements for customers and
They can financially profit off of the created CSAM in some cases (Withers & Burg, 2021).
In this specific case, the female trafficker created CSAM of the victim and sent it to the male trafficker. It’s not clear what he did with the explicit content, but it’s likely he used it to lure in a sex buyer.
Another interesting observation is that the traffickers wanted the victim to recruit her friends, but the friends refused. While we don’t know anything about the victim’s background, it’s likely that she had already experienced trauma or abuse prior to being trafficking and the traffickers picked up on those vulnerabilities.
The other tactic that traffickers often use, with children and adults alike, is giving them drugs or forcing them to use drugs. This is used to increase compliance and eventually get victims addicted to substances, making it even more difficult to get away from their trafficker in the long run.
The traffickers let the victim keep some of the money after a sex buyer paid her, which is another way to groom victims, by “rewarding” them for compliance and normalizing transactional sexual encounters.
There are many disturbing elements in this account, and to be clear multiple types of abuse and exploitation were happening to this teenager. The only good news was the excellent work by the agencies involved in bringing some justice to this horrific situation and freeing this teenager from continued harm.
This is the account of one, out of thousands, of similar stories that happen in our country; and is a reminder that healing services are desperately needed for kids and adults of trafficking in our communities.