Slavery mark used on victims of trafficking

Highlights of history

Pimps ‘mark’ tattooed girls to show ownership

Adriana, who has been scarred, opens up about the challenges of leaving life

“You have no idea how I’m breaking inside” she said


When Adriana walks into a room, people notice her. Her neon pink dress and pearls couldn’t even come close to her electric persona.

“Before we start. I want to know – what do you want from me? Adriana asked before our interview.

We explained that we wanted to hear her story if she wanted to share it.

A few minutes later, Adriana laughed so disarmingly that she seemed to transform into a different person. It turns out that she may have tried to do just that.

After an hour of conversation, she explained that she often had to pretend to be someone else to live the life she led.

A clear sign of this life is tattooed in large, bold letters on his chest.

“It’s here,” she said showing off her tattoo. “I call it my war wound. I got him when I was 14, and he was one of my pimps, ”she said.

Adriana’s trafficker had persuaded her to get his name tattooed on her chest.

“It lets other pimps know it’s their property,” the vice-sergeant said. Ron Fisher of the Los Angeles Police Department in Van Nuys. Fisher has seen countless numbers of them as his unit works the streets and the internet, trying to find trafficked underage girls.

04:34 – Source: CNN

17-year-old says she was branded by her pimp

Police and anti-trafficking advocates increasingly see these marks on girls in recent years.

“The first time I realized this was probably five years ago. It’s just another way to control them [the girls], and let the other pimps know that, ‘Hey, this guy is mine,’ ”said LAPD captain Lillian Carranza. The mark appears all over the body of the girls.

An old fashioned money bag tattooed on the arm. “F— You, Pay Me” tattooed on a girl’s neck. Big initials tattooed on a girl’s face. The initials “ATM” tattooed near a girl’s crotch. The name of a trafficker tattooed on a girl’s thighs. A barcode tattooed on a girl’s wrist, like an item in a grocery store. The practice is not new. Previously, slave owners used marks on slaves to show ownership. Now it’s back in a different form, but for the same horrible purpose.

Children’s lawyer Lois Lee explained that girls don’t see it that way, at least not at first. Lee should know; For 30 years, she has run an organization called Children of the Night which hosts, educates and tries to give girls a chance to live a different life.

“They see it differently. They belong to someone. It is important to them. Someone asked for me. Now I belong to a group. Lee said that’s how girls often feel about brands when they first walk into her home.

Adriana was no exception.

“I was proud to have him,” Adriana said. “He says I’m for you. I will never leave you. If I mark my body for you, risk my life for you. I’ll do everything for you.”

And indeed, she almost did.

Adriana said she’s been through it all. “Whether it’s a gun to your head, a knife to your stomach, whether you get raped or robbed or whatever. … Eventually you get used to it.

Used to being up 24 hours. Used to dissuading people from hurting you. Used to a new “family” and new “bosses”. Adriana, who is now 17, said she had four pimps.

Her “new life” began at age 13. Adriana said she was rebelling and decided to run away from the house where her father was raising her. Her mother was not part of the equation, and Adriana decided she would go out on her own. She said she might be young, but she wasn’t a fool and at least knew she needed the money.

One evening, she said, she went to a party just down the street from her house. This is where home life turned into street life.

She met a guy who said all the right things, promising her lots of money, fancy cars, and a lavish lifestyle. Then, she said, he introduced her to girls who were dressed in beautiful clothes, hair and manicured. Their lives seemed golden.

“I thought they were awesome. I thought they were beautiful. I loved their bright clothes. I liked everything about it, ”she said.

And with that, Adriana, 13, says that she adhered to the “dream” that was sold to her: Sell ​​sex; get amazing rewards. Everything is fun and games.

She was addicted.

“I can only speak for myself. You don’t think of the consequences. You don’t think of the killers and rapists. You think, ‘Can I make that much money? Can I have it all? I don’t need to. to go to school. I don’t have to listen to anyone, “she said, except of course she had to obey someone.

Adriana doesn’t want to be seen as a victim. She said it was her choice.

But by all standards, she has indeed been trafficked: not old enough to consent to sex and exploited by men she calls pimps, but law enforcement now refers to sex traffickers. of children.

It didn’t take long for him to learn the lingo: to be “cut” meant to be beaten – which the trafficker would do if you didn’t bring in enough money. A “woman” is another girl controlled by the same pimp. The “Ho-partners” are controlled by other pimps.

“It’s a life in a lifetime,” said Adriana.

Other trafficked girls we spoke with who did not want to be named said that pimps ask girls to do all kinds of things these days: carjacking. Hold the weapons of their traffickers. Steal from the men who come to buy sex. Drug possession. You name it. The game has changed. Lee said she believed this was in part due to an unintended consequence of sex trafficking laws that increased sentences for sex traffickers. Traffickers can be sentenced to over 20 years in prison for all kinds of things both federal and local, from kidnapping to racketeering.

There are fewer trafficked children now, Lee said. There have been nearly 40,000 people identified as likely victims of human trafficking in the United States since 2007, according to the National Resource Center on Human Trafficking.

But now, Lee said, gangs are taking over the game. Infamous criminal gangs known for drug and gun trafficking have started chasing pimps and taking over prostitution rings, enticing girls to win. their money and to stand out when they are arrested. Now that the laws are stricter against human trafficking, gangs are using the girls for other crimes.

“They are more violent. And because the gangs control the girls, they know they are serving less time by using them for other types of crime, ”Lee said.

Lee said she saw a way to fix it: “There should be a law that anyone who uses a child in any type of crime faces the same penalties as if they used them for sex trafficking. .

7 ways to tell if someone is being trafficked

For Adriana, leaving life is not as easy as it seems.

She is whipped and studying for her high school diploma. In many ways, Adriana seems confident. She insisted on showing her face and using her name because she doesn’t want other girls to be ashamed of what they’ve been through. She can also see a way out of life, but she still can’t seem to get rid of it completely.

“I don’t think you can ever leave life because it’s a mental thing. It stays with you, ”Adriana said, casually mentioning the dangers.

“If you stay in life, that’s it for you. Either you will kill yourself. You are going to take drugs or you are going to be dead. Someone is going to kill you.

She said she had something else that could help her move on to another life; she is not addicted to drugs like so many other girls.

The traffickers often encourage girls to use drugs to help them stay awake and to work more and to give them a habit that they have to work for.

Instead, Adriana uses her mind to create a safe place.

“I have another character and her name is Tootsie. She’s very outgoing, very bubbly, she’s like everyone’s dream,” Adriana said, explaining that she has about six different personalities that she’s got. inspire to survive.

In the meantime, she said the girls who worked around her thought she was the bravest among them, along with her upbeat demeanor.

“You have no idea how I’m breaking down on the inside,” she said. “Every time I remove a piece, I put a piece back up and another piece of myself falls out.”

CNN’s Traci Tamura contributed to this report.

About Stefany Edmondson

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