“It’s very easy to understand force in terms of a physical assault, but what about psychological coercion? But what about a threat against a family member, what about a threat against a child who’s left in a home country?” he says. “We want to make the light bulb go off and to recognize that something might be going on here that they need to follow up with.” – Victim

Caged Birds

How Demand Creates Sex Slaves 

By Marielena Zuniga

He wears a clean white shirt, is 40-something and paces outside the massage parlor in a seedier part of Toronto, Canada. He could be any man. A neighbor. A brother. A co-worker. “Hello, sweetie,” the Thai girl greets him from the doorway, as she’s been taught. She has a quota to meet. If she doesn’t, she’ll be beaten or scorched with an iron by the madam running this brothel.

The “John,” as these men are called, has no way of knowing—nor does he care—that this girl was trafficked into Canada by one of the Vietnamese and Chinese mafias that bring anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 women and children into the country each year. He also doesn’t know or care that this girl is guarded by a man with a gun at all times, is not allowed to speak to others, and is drawn, malnourished and exhausted.
The John peeks inside. Dim lights. Plenty of girls. What he can’t see are the squalid living conditions upstairs, the fetid room with mattresses on the floor, the medication to induce abortions, the drugs to numb the emotional and physical pain of sexual trauma.

“C’mon in,” she invites him, wondering that if this John has a daughter would he want her far away from home, tricked into prostitution by promise of a good job. The girl forces a smile, takes him by the hand and ushers him inside. She is only 15 years old. 

Traffickers know exactly what to say to kids to lure them into a feeling of security and comfort with the promise of a new life. They give the victim the impression that it is their own choice, that it is their own direction that they are following independently. The child feels empowered and grown-up and that this new person understands them like their parents do not. 

Soon they are beaten, “softened,” drugged, and introduced to a sexual transaction. They are told it is their choice. They are told that they will be arrested for prostitution and that the trafficker/pimp is the one who will protect them now and keep them safe. They can be sold or traded. 

 These men, the “johns,” are described as bankers and firemen and cops, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers. It is possible that the prostitute they are visiting is not a volunteer. They could be a slave, forced into this life against their will. It could be someone you used to know, someone’s daughter or sister or friend. You, the anonymous john, could be the engine driving the machine. 

Kikka Cerpa was forced into a life of prostitution after her boyfriend persuaded her to leave Venezuela and go to New York in 1992.

“I went to the United States thinking that I was going to be working as a nanny, and I ended up being a prostitute, not by choice,” she said.

Cerpa said she was beaten and raped and spent three years working in the sex trade to pay off her boyfriend’s debts.