Rudyard Kipling’s short story, “On The City Wall”, begins with one simple line, that has defined a profession for centuries. “Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world”, has pretty much taken on a life of its own. Although it’s often incorrectly cited, it can still be applied to the “profession” of prostitution.
Prostitution and pimping have come a long way since 1888. Hell, it’s come a long way since 1998. With the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tagged, the oldest profession in the world, is now finding new ways to recruit fresh meat. Social networking has changed the sex trafficking “industry”, by allowing pimps to have easier access to women and girls.
CNN recently told the story of one young woman, that goes by the pseudonym “Nina”, and how she became involved in prostitution, all because of a simple Facebook friend request. Nina had plans on attending college, but she said those plans were derailed because of her mother’s jail sentence. At that time, she was in a vulnerable state and looking for a way out, when she received a friend request from a guy she didn’t know.
“He sold me the biggest dream in the world,” she says. “I thought he really did like me and we were going to live this fairy-tale life together.”
After a month of corresponding, and then meeting, her so-called fairy-tale became a reality of hell. Even though she realized she was his prostitute, she stayed because she was willing to do anything for the man she “loved”.
Unfortunately, these scenarios are the reality of many women because of the men they come across via social networking.
“Pimps are professional exploiters,” says Andrea Powell, executive director of Fair Girls, an organization that helps victims of sex trafficking. “Often they’re just spamming a whole bunch of girls with messages like, ‘Hey, you look cute. I could be your boyfriend.’”
And just like that, they have a new hooker on The Point.
One story to make headlines last year involved a 26 year old Lorton, Virginia man, who was involved with recruiting teenage girls via social networking. According to court documents, Justin Strom and others recruited up to 10 high school girls from Fairfax County between the ages of 16 to 18 years-old to become prostitutes. He recruited them via Facebook, Craigslist, Backpage, MySpace and Datehookup.com. According to an FBI affidavit, Strom and his fellow gang members not only threatened the girls with violence, but forced them to take drugs if they refused to participate or didn’t perform as directed.
“Justin Strom robbed these girls of their childhood, their innocence, and their trust and he did that in the most base, vile and despicable way possible.Nothing can ever repair the damages Strom inflicted on his victims, but it’s our hope that today’s guilty plea will help them begin a path towards healing and moving forward.” said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
“Justin Strom was the undisputed leader of a juvenile sex trafficking ring that spanned nearly six years,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “He saw these young girls as commodities and used fraud, flattery, and force to lure them into the depraved world of child prostitution. Today’s sentence is both severe and appropriate. No sentence can undo the trauma endured by these girls, but we hope this sentence will help save others by driving would-be traffickers out of the child sex trafficking business.”
Strom’s case is just one of many that have been brought to trial and successfully prosecuted, but of course there are plenty that haven’t been. The FBI suggests that parents do a better job of monitoring their children’s social networking activities, even if it means snooping.
“I’ve talked to parents who say, ‘Hey listen, my son has to set up my computer ’cause I just don’t know,’” says the FBI’s Jack Bennett. “That’s not an excuse anymore. You’ve got to know, because it’s your child’s life and their well-being depends on this.”