Young women and girls, who are trafficked for sex in Portland, are being sucked into a repetitive, lucrative crime. In the eyes of society, a young woman over the age of 18 becomes liable for their actions and is often times prosecuted, not as the victim, but as the offender of their own crime.

Jeri estimates she turned tricks with over 1,200 men during the summer of 1989.  Her transition from an abusive relationship with her husband into the violence-driven bondage of a prostitute happened so Jeri could afford to raise her children. Like all young women who fall victim to sex trafficking in the United States, Jeri became trapped, brainwashed, and raped of her entire self. This viscous consumption of millions of lives is due, in part, to the rapid, rising demand for sex in the U.S., as well as hard economic times.

In her vocation for sex trafficking of minor survivors, Esther Nelson stresses that the prostituted girl is not the criminal and not at fault for her repeated acts, but rather the victim of a dangerous crime. The girls who fall victim to trafficking in the local Portland area are usually searching for love that they are not finding inside their home, or running away from abuse. Most runaway to find a better life and a confidante to give them the affection or support they need. “Once a girl enters the streets in Portland, she is solicited by a pimp within the first 48 hours,” according to Esther Nelson.

Jeri was seized by a pimp when she took to the streets and was raped by the members of the gang with whom her new pimp was associated. She was then trapped, both socially and physically, and was unable to leave her new life. Locked in a room by day and threatened with beatings if she did not bring her pimp at least $300 dollars each night, Jeri and her two young children were caught in a world where violence and fear controlled their every move.

Detective Todd Baltzell describes the viewpoint of society as well as the mentality of a young victim caught in sex trafficking. “We, as a society, like to umbrella everything and we tend to forget that people are individuals… For example, someone who has been trapped in sex trafficking, even when someone tries to take them out of it, they will go back into it, because that’s the world they know. And it won’t make sense to society… It appears that these victims don’t want to be helped, but really, they don’t recognize how to get out of it.”

Jeri was forced to prostitute herself even after she was stabbed in the neck by a trick who demanded she give him all her money. Jeri recalls that she refused to give up the money she had acquired that night for fear of being beaten by her pimp when she returned home short the $300 he required of her every night. This near death experience awakened Jeri to the victimhood she had been enduring for so long. She now tells a story of survival, but only after surviving a story of terror.

Advocate Esther Nelson states that, “We have a system in place that is supposed to afford victims justice and until we start holding traffickers and “Johns” accountable, we’re not going to see a change. If we don’t reduce the demand and selling of humans, we’re not going to stop seeing this phenomenon take place.” Sex is viewed as a common place in modern day society. Resources and advocates believe that the victim is never to blame, only the hostile people, everyday forces and local businesses that encourage and support the selling of humans.

Sources:

1)      Todd Baltzell- Sex Abuse Detective at Newberg Police Department

Newberg Police Dept: (503) 538-8321

2)      Esther Nelson- Advocate for minor sexual assault survivors at the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Beaverton

SARC: 503-626-9100 ex:222 (for Esther)

3)      Jeri Williams- Sex trafficking survivor and inspirational speaker from Portland Oregon

503-477-4620

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