sex slave

Learning the Lingo

Awhile back, some of us with End Slavery TN got a lesson in terminology from a survivor of sex trafficking.  We learned a lot more than words in the process; we learned a lot about the world of a victim. Read it, and weep. Then, for heaven’s sake, DO something to help.

  • Bottom, or Bottom Bitch: A person appointed by the pimp/trafficker to recruit potential victims, report violation of rules, and often to help punish.
  • Branded: A tattoo on a victim indicating ownership by a trafficker/pimp.
  • Daddy: A term a male trafficker /pimp requires his victims to call him.
  • Family or Folks: A group of victims under the control of a trafficker/pimp. The term is an attempt to recreate the family environment.
  • Gorilla Pimp: A violent trafficker/pimp
  • Lot Lizard: Derogatory term for prostituted women and children at truck stops.
  • Pimp Circle: Describes a situation where pimps circle around a victim to intimidate and discipline them, using verbal and physical threats/action, i.e.beating with wire coat hangers, defecating and urinating on victims
  • Quota: The amount of money a victim must give to their trafficker/pimp each night. If a quota is not met, the victim may be made to work until it is, or may be beaten or otherwise disciplined.
  • Seasoning: The process of breaking a victim’s spirit and gaining control over her, using rapes, beatings, manipulation and intimidation. There is actually a manual for pimps on how to season victims.
  • Stable: A group of victims under the control of a pimp.
  • Trade Up/Trade Down: The act of buying or selling a person for a pimp’s stable.
  • Turn Out: To be forced into prostitution; also a person newly involved
  • "Wifey" or Wife-in-law: A term prostituted women and children are required to call the other females in the “stable.”
  • Kiddie Track or Runaway Track - Just what it sounds like it means.  

In Her Own Words...Part 3

Karen:  Most people who are involved with the abolition of human trafficking and slavery know the horrors of this crime from books, movies, videos, on-line accounts, etc.  However, on one night in January, some of the volunteers with End Slavery TN met these atrocities face to face.  We were invited to spend a few hours with a victim of human trafficking. We sat mesmerized for two hours listening to a beautiful, courageous young woman, whom I shall call “Carrie” and what have been the horrors of her life.    She talked about her drug addicted mother and alcoholic father, and how at the early age of six, her mother told her to go into a bedroom with drug suppliers and “play doctor” with them.  “Carrie” had never been taught the values that most of us are brought up with, the value of one’s body and soul. She was a very bright, pretty girl and by the time she was twelve or thirteen, after having lived with other relatives in various places, been raped by her older brother, and abused by others, she became involved with a pimp and a life of prostitution.  Over the next five-six years she was forced to have sex with “more men than she could hope to remember.”  She was moved from city to city, was branded on her body and face, had both feet broken when thrown out of a moving car, had her teeth broken, and was beaten repeatedly for “not making her quota” or disobeying her pimp!   From the time she was sixteen, she tried to break away from this destructive life.  After being arrested and treated like a criminal, however, she would call her pimp to bail her out.  After all, who else would help her? Until one day, she encountered a woman from law enforcement who offered to help her escape.  In an agreement for testifying against several pimps, she was placed several times in foster homes or half-way houses where she was mistreated, eventually retreating to her pimp, because “at least he would feed her.”    “Carrie” has, in her early twenties, finally escaped, but at a cost.  She has been placed here in TN where she knew no one, can never go back home, can never contact her family, and fears that she will be found and killed.  She is courageously trying to begin a new life as a college student and working to help other victims.  However, it is hard!  She feels alienated from most people because of her past, feels she may never have a normal relationship with a man and has difficulty with trust.  Despite everything, she is upbeat and hopeful.   I personally came away heartbroken for “Carrie” and all the “Carries” of this world.  Most of us will never know the realities of trafficking, can never fully understand the dynamics that land victims in this path, or fully comprehend the consequences.  We can, however, learn from these victims, share their stories, come to their assistance, continue to educate others, and do everything in our power to end human trafficking.  There are laws in place against this crime.  WE have to work to ensure these laws are enforced!  Thank you “Carrie” for sharing your story and for your courage to escape and help prosecute these criminals!

In Her Own Words

Members of the Nashville Volunteer group had the rare privilege of hearing, in her own words, the horrific story of a rescued victim of human trafficking, and to be inspired by her courage. Below are the accounts and reactions of a few of those present that day:



At first I was sure there was some mistake.

The young woman I’d just met was a vivacious, energetic college student.  She was very much like every other college student I knew, though perhaps even more passionate about life.

Could she really have been held as a slave for all of her teenage years, trafficked across multiple states, her body sold to the highest bidders, night after night?

I had the privilege – and heartbreak - of hearing her story personally, and now I have the responsibility to share her story with the hope of preventing other tragedies like this one…


Angel* had the misfortune of being born to a mom who was a drug addict and a dad who was an alcoholic.  She was raped at 13 by a family “friend” and later by her own brother.  When she was forced to leave home because she couldn’t pay the rent demanded by her father, she was enslaved by countless pimps, some “meaner” than others.  They at least kept her fed and clothed… as long as she followed their every command. 

Pimps became her “daddy”… sex a commodity.

She worked the “track” every night (every city has one), not able to rest until she’d earned the minimum required by her master.  Then she showered and was raped by her pimp (to make sure she wasn’t hiding any of “his” money).  If she didn’t toe the line (in any real or imagined way), she was brutally abused.  Among the physical assaults she described were: 

  • Her face and body were “branded” by one pimp leaving deep scars.
  • Her jaw and front teeth were broken from repeated kicking by pointed boots
  • She was beaten until she nearly bled to death, miscarrying her baby
  • Unspeakable things were done to her with a hairbrush.

And, perhaps saddest of all, some of her girlfriends, trapped in this hell on earth with her, just disappeared without notice, never to be seen or heard from again.  Angel knows what happened to them, though she doesn’t want to think about it. But for the grace of God, she too may have ended up in a shallow grave.

Now in her early twenties, Angel has a passion to help others.  She’s in college, majoring in social work.  And she’s pursuing speaking opportunities, as painful as it is to relive her past.  In addition to speaking to our Not For Sale community activist group, she’s also spoken to groups of young people, warning them about how easy it is to become trapped in this vicious underground world where one human being “owns” another.

Angel is out to save other girls from the nightmare she’s endured.

* Angel is not her real name. 

...To Be Continued

A Glimpse at Grassroots Activism: The making of “Stolen”, the song and music video

End Slavery TN abolitionists recently completed participation in a project that epitomizes the grassroots nature of our work. The fruition can be found in the song “Stolen” and accompanying music video: WARNING. POTENTIALLY DISTURBING IMAGES. NOT FOR CHILDREN. [youtube=]

The process, in microcosm, looked like this:

I shared some of my Power Points, information  and the story of a local victim with a local pastor.

The pastor, Michael Reddish, talked to his congregation about Human Trafficking, and told the survivor’s story.

A musician in the audience, Brian Terry, heard the story, talked to me afterward, and bought the book “Not For Sale.”

The story inspired Brian to write the song “Stolen.” Reading the book burned the issue into his heart, inspiring determination to do whatever he could to cripple slavery.

3 Minutes to Live band members joined Brian, who is their lead singer,  in performing and recording the song. Some who heard “Stolen” encouraged the group to create an accompanying music video.

I sent word out to our network of area abolitionists and:

  • An apartment manager, Diana English, arranged for us to use one of her show apartments as a location.
  • Bill Harding, a student and colleague working with Stop Child Trafficking Now, took on the role of videographer and was able to use his school’s equipment because he made this his class project.
  • Marla Shelton, who works in the Service Learning Dept. at Volunteer State Community College, got the word out to students about volunteer needs. (Marla, and many of the students involved also heard me speak to their classes about Human Trafficking and were informed and eager for a chance to engage. )
  • These students, along with Marla and other area activists and some of Brian’s friends and family, and the band members of 3 Minutes to Live, played the parts of victims and traffickers, made signs, took out trash, created bruises and black eyes from make-up , took down and set up furniture and props and did everything else needed for this work-intensive weekend. Other team members included: Kate Harris, Jamie Burton, Tina Newman, Amber Terry, Adam Wolfe, Brittany Bertolli, Isaiah White, Jerry Martinez, Megan Mitchell,  Kiersten Joyce Butler, Leslie Zellaya, Raymond Wolfe, and Samara Williams.
  • (I don’t want to brag, but I actually had the most important role as “Official String Cheese Provider” for the cast and crew. I did make people string their own cheese. Can't do everything.)

So now we have a powerful tool for raising awareness of this heinous crime and raising funds for anti-slavery work.

But the grassroots effort is not done. Now it is YOUR turn. You determine the effectiveness of all the work done thus far.  Please send this blog or the link to to everyone you know. Or send them to our website where recipients will find the link and ways to become further informed and involved.  If you have media connections, send the video to them. Rate it on YouTube to help it get more exposure there. Post it on your social networks.

Don’t wait for “someone”  to do “something!” WE are the “someones” who can make ripples—and waves—with far reaching consequences for good. Take 5 minutes to pass this on, and be part of the grassroots movement to end slavery in our lifetime.  Thanks, team!

To Abolition!


Red Flags: A Quick Guide to Victim Identification

redflag           redflag          redflag

A few years ago my daughters treated me to my first ever manicure. When I went to the nail salon, something seemed strangely wrong, but I had no idea what. Today I do. I was served by a hostile and unskilled young Asian woman, always under the watchful eye of an older woman who did all the speaking. Looking back, I feel almost sure the young woman was a modern day slave. But at the time, I didn’t know such a thing existed, so I didn’t know how to correctly interpret the suspicious signs.

Victims of modern-day slavery may be found in legal, legitimate businesses, or in underground markets. They may be locked behind the closed doors of a brothel or factory, or in plain view. Widespread lack of awareness leads to low levels of victim identification, even by those who come in contact with them. Let’s change that! By learning the red flags for victim identification, victims will be more readily rescued and saved.

Here are some indicators which may raise a red flag that a person may be a victim of human trafficking. You may want to take a second look at situations where a person(s):

  • Appears to be under someone else's control. They appear to be under surveillance at all times. All or most contacts with family, friends, and professionals are controlled and monitored.
  • Does not manage their own money or money is largely controlled by someone else.
  • Is not in control of their own identification or travel documents.
  • Work excessive hours.
  • Is unpaid for their work or paid very little.
  • Lives with multiple people in a very cramped space.
  • Lives with their employer.
  • Has little/no English language skills or knowledge of the local community.
  • Appears to have little privacy or is rarely alone.
  • Has visible injuries or scars, such as cuts, bruises, or burns. May have injuries around the head, face, and mouth from being struck in the head or face.(Sex slaves’ scars tend to be hidden, as on the lower back)
  • Has untreated illnesses or infections. Ex: Diabetes, cancer, TB.
  • Has general poor health and/or diseases associated with unsanitary living conditions.
  • Has STDs, HIV/Aids, pelvic pain/inflammation, rectal trauma, urinary difficulties, abdominal or genital trauma
  • Uses drugs- victims are often given drugs to keep them dependent.
  • Exhibits submissive behavior or fearful behavior in the presence of others.
  • Exhibits emotional distress such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, phobias, disorientation, self-inflicted injuries or suicide attempts.
  • Engages in prostitution or lives in a brothel.
  • Is sexually exploited in strip clubs, massage parlors, pornography.
  • Is branded with a tattoo of a man’s name or “Daddy.”
  • Exhibits feelings of helplessness, shame, humiliation, shock, denial or disbelief
  • Is pregnant as a result of rape or prostitution.

Additionally, for minors, if they:

  • Talk about an older boyfriend or sex with an older man/boyfriend 
  • Use words associated with the commercial sex industry
  • Hang around commercial sex businesses like strip clubs, massage parlors, adult book/video stores
  • Have stunted growth, or poorly formed or rotting teeth

Anyone under 18 who engages in commercial sex (porn or prostitution) is legally a severe trafficking victim. Force, fraud or coercion does not need to be present as in the case of someone over 18.

If you suspect a case of human trafficking/slavery, call the national hotline number:


  • It is important to talk to potential victims in a safe and confidential environment. If the victim is accompanied by someone who seems to have control over them, discretely attempt to separate the person from the individual accompanying him/her, without arousing suspicion, since this person could be the trafficker.
  • As needed, enlist the help of a professional who speaks the potential victim's language and understands his or her culture.
  • Do not collect more information than you need! In depth interviews with the potential victim should be conducted by mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals or legal experts. Multiple interviews may confuse and/or re-traumatize victims and may put you at risk of being subpoenaed as a witness.

The Perpetrators: Three Short Stories

#1 Picture a nice rural high school, surrounded by lush farm land. As is so typical  at this age, a sixteen year old girl is flattered when she is romanced by a boy at school . The boy brings the girl home to meet his mother, but instead of sitting down to a nice lunch and a chat,  the mother pops an ad up on the internet advertising the girl for sex, and drives the teen to a hotel where she is sold to 20-30 men. An anonymous tip prompts police investigation which reveals that this family team was doing the same thing with a number of other 16 and 17 year old high school girls.  This is the mother, son and daughter, who was also involved. 


#2: A 18 year old girl ,who I’ll call “Mary”,  living with her older sister, is taking a class at church and is pleased  by the attention of a woman in the class. They become friends. One day after  class, her new “friend” briefly introduces Mary to two men who, unknown to her, follow the girl home. Later in the week, when she is home alone, the men come back, tell Mary to pack her bags and come with them or they will kill her sister. She is terrified and does what they demand. For the next three years, Mary is shuttled from one location to another, to keep her disoriented and without a support system. She’s sold to be raped on average of 7-8 times a day,  while the men pocket the money. To keep her compliant, they stab her with an ice pick, torture her, beat her and continued to threaten the lives of both her sister and her parents. These are the men. 


# 3: Now picture a young woman, full of ambition, getting off a bus in a new city, needing a job and a place to live.  She’s been chatting with a young man who seems friendly and interested in her well-being. In the course of the conversation the young man says he knows of a friend who might be able to help her get a job. Grateful, the girl follows up on the job lead—and ends up locked in a motel room waiting for clients to arrive in response to an on-line ad the “friend” put on the internet advertising her sexual services. Thankfully, the girl was able to get the attention of a motel worker who called for help and she was rescued, along with three other not-as-fortunate girls being held by this young man and his father. These girls  had been dragged from town to town and sold for sex over a period of years. One of these girls, when rescued, was sobbing “I just want to see my mother!” This is the son in that father-son team.


And this one is a customer. Without him, the perpetrators would go out of business. 


All of these stories are true. But what might surprise you is to learn that all of them happened in middle Tennessee . Stories #2 and 3 took place in Nashville. The high school in the first story was in Robertson County, NW of Nashville, and the hotel was in Murfreesboro. All happened within the past year– two of them in the last few months. 

Human Trafficking and slavery is real, it's everywhere, and it's growing.  If you live in Tennessee, you WILL find it, when you look.  It happens here.   To see other victim stories, visit

Vulnerable Populations

Danger clip art

So who is at risk for trafficking in Tennessee?

Runaways  1/3 of all runaways are lured into sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home! 90% eventually end up in the commercial sex trade.  Clearly, we need to warn young people and parents of the tactics and dangers.

Children on the fringes– These kids might be from abusive homes or have immigrant parents working two jobs to make ends meet, not able to keep close tabs on their children. Or it might just be that slightly chubby kid who doesn’t quite fit in at school.

Traffickers often use recruiters. ( If you saw the movie “Taken”, the guy at the airport, who took the girl’s picture and shared a cab with them, was the recruiter.) This might be a cute guy who acts like he has a romantic interest in a girl. Or a girl about the same age who becomes a girlfriend. Or a woman. Someone who seems safe and acts as if they will provide the love, care, affirmation and protection the child longs for. They often  invest time in a child, until the day when the child trusts the recruiter enough to  be put in a position where they can be handed  over to the traffickers, and everyone’s true motives are revealed.

In a recent local case, a boy recruited 16 and 17-year-old girls from his rural high school in Robertson County. His mother then trafficked them from a hotel in Murfreesboro.

Immigrants -  Unfamiliar with local customs and laws and struggling with the language, immigrants are prime targets. They often have their identification and passport taken from them through force or deception, and are told lies about what would happen to them if they spoke to the police. Traffickers also frequently gather information about a victim’s family members in their home country and threaten reprisals against them. 

Anyone - It’s true that traffickers are less likely to recruit from neighborhoods with social power. It’s riskier. A wide spread search is more likely.

But I talked to woman a few months ago who lived in an expensive, exclusive neighborhood and whose father is an executive for a big corporation. She was trafficked by a boy in her high school.

I’ve read about traffickers targeting girls in rural Minnesota because they are sweet and wholesome. Sweet wholesome virgins bring the highest prices. Traffickers are driven by profit, so sometimes they’ll take the risks.

These predators will recruit from malls, schools, playgrounds, theatres, churches, skating rinks, college campuses, bowling alleys– anywhere children, young people, disdplaced people and other vulnerable populations can be found.

Human Trafficking and Slavery is real, it's everywhere, and it's growing.

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[youtube=] Of the 27 million slaves in the world today about half are children.   According to research by the University of Pennsylvania, at least 100,000 AMERICAN children PER YEAR are used for pornography or prostitution.   And here’s a simple statistic that never fails to pierce my heart:  Two children are trafficked into sexual exploitation every minute   Traffickers typically use recruiters. That might be a 16 year old boy who acts like he has a romantic interest in a girl. Or a girl around the same age as the targeted victim , or a woman. Someone who seems safe and who acts like they are the ones who will provide what the child is longing for: love, protection, affirmation and attention. Recruiters invest time cultivating a child’s trust until the day comes when the child is in a position to be handed over to a trafficker. Then everyone’s true motivations are revealed.   So who’s vulnerable?

  • Runaways   1/3 are lured into sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home! 90% eventually end up in commercial sex trade. We need to warn young people and parents about the tactics and dangers of trafficking!
  • Children on the fringes. These may be kids from abusive homes or those neglected by harried immigrant parents working two jobs to make ends meet. Or it may just be the chubby child who doesn’t quite fit in.
  • Anyone

Traffickers are less likely to recruit from neighborhoods with social power. It’s riskier and a wide spread search is more likely. But I talked to a woman a few months ago who lived in an expensive, exclusive neighborhood and was trafficked by boy in her high school. I’ve read of traffickers targeting girls in rural Minnesota simply because they are sweet and wholesome, and sweet wholesome virgins bring the highest prices. Traffickers are driven by profit, so sometimes they will take increased risks.   In our most recent local case, 16 and 17 year old girls from a rural high school were the victims. Anyone, of any race, in any locale and with any socio-economic status can become a trafficker’s prey. Traffickers will recruit from malls, schools, bowling alleys, skating rinks, playgrounds, theatres– anywhere children can be found.

In Their Own Words #3: Broken Promise

broken 4 blogJust a couple of hours into the long drive from Columbus to Florida, the young girl sensed that she had made a dangerous mistake. The 14-year-old, who had pretended to be 18, admitted her real age to the people who promised to make her a star model and asked them to return her to her extended family in Columbus. The student lived in a middle-class neighborhood with her parents in another state but had been visiting family in Columbus.

Alan Townsend was enraged by the girl's plea. According to FBI records, slapped her face and told her that he was going to keep her.

Just a few days earlier, the girl encountered Townsend and his recruiter, Courtney Shine, on a social-networking page. First came a wave of e-mails, then a cell number, and then the girl met Shine in a park. Townsend typically used Shine to make the initial contact with young girls to make them feel more comfortable.

Shine assured the girl that she would be safe and everything would be "cool" on the trip to Florida. During the drive, the girl said Townsend continued to slap her and attempted to fondle her several times.

Townsend, Shine and the girl arrived in Gainesville, Fla., on June 13 of last year.

The girl was soon given a condom and told to offer sex for $150 to the first man who walked by their cheap hotel room.

"I'm a virgin!" the girl pleaded. "I'm a virgin."

The next night, the girl again refused to solicit men in a hotel parking lot and began to cry.

"Stop being a bitch," Townsend said.

Both Townsend and Shine attempted to have sex with the 14-year-old, but she again fended them off.

Finally, after a stop in Orlando, they arrived in Daytona Beach, where the girl was able to break free and use a stranger's cell phone to call police.

The girl was unharmed and returned to Columbus. Both Townsend and Shine were arrested and recently plead guilty to sex trafficking.

Now, Townsend, who admitted to being involved with at least six other girls, is serving an eight-year prison term.

"I wasn't gonna just give up, 'cause I was like, 'I brought this girl all the way down here,' " Townsend told detectives in Florida. "I might as well get something out of it."

From The Columbus Dispatch July 28, 2009