It is sometimes difficult to imagine the how and why a woman can find herself under the yoke of sexual exploitation. During many social exchanges, I have been asked about the reality of victims. At first glance, the fact that a woman is sexually exploited without being literally shackled in a basement makes no sense to many people. For me, as well as for the other members of the team at The Way Out, the observed reality gives us a more complete perspective when regarding the phenomenon of criminal exploitation. We recognize this form of criminal exploitation to be made largely possible through manipulation, which encompasses sexual, physical and psychological abuse of victims by their exploiter, either a pimp or a company/agency presented with a corporate facade. Although there are many stories that involve kidnapping, it is clear that generally speaking, the reality is quite different. On International Women’s Day, we want to take the opportunity to clarify to our readers what these women are actually going through.

Bringing justice by helping these women through compassion is not enough. It is critical that we understand the phenomenon of sexual exploitation and respond to it appropriately.

In relationships where violence and sexual abuse are present, it’s important to point out that the pimp-victim relationship never actually begins with abuse. It usually starts off as a bond of friendship or even as a romantic relationship founded on admiration, self-esteem, trust and other good qualities typically characteristic of healthy human relationships. The pimp seeks his victim out by initiating and establishing relationship, imparting a sense of worth and respect. Words of affirmation (compliments), gifts (clothing, beauty products, jewelry, etc.), acts of service (providing lifts by car between school and home, or for outings with friends), spending quality moments together (listening, going out to restaurants, various recreational activities) and physical touch (sexual or friendly) are all part of the set of relational languages employed by the exploiter, all in order to set the stage for the next steps of his plan. The pimp thus slowly weaves his web around his victim in order to gain her trust. Through highly sophisticated and strategic moves, the pimp subsequently gains control over his victim drawing her awayfrom focusing on her education and work, in addition to isolating her from her social circle of family and friends.

What I have understood through the years, is that it is difficult to envision the whole picture of what’s involved surrounding the abuse that these young victims experience by their pimps. Exchanging sex for money is already something quite out of the ordinary. To do it to provide the money to an exploiter without even receiving any of it is even more absurd. Although each situation is unique, at the residence, our workers can attest to how true this reality is.

Luring with relational languages (words, gifts, quality time, acts of service and touch) are the tools of psychological manipulations used by pimps to control their victims, while taking advantage of their vulnerability, their lack of self-esteem and their isolated social context (foster homes, DYPs, youth centers, etc.).

In order to provide a continuum of appropriate services that directly help young women in the Greater Montreal area, The Way Out needs your support!

We believe in their potential and understand what they are going through, and that’s why we want to help them rebuild their lives and take steps towards a better future.

Our team is specialized in responding to their call for help, and today being International Women’s Day, we want to honour their courage. Today is a perfect occasion to show your support to these young women. You can make a donation here. 

Dominique Marzec – Volunteer