Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?

By: Jen Mukes

Easier said than done, in most situations.

When we hear stories of women and girls trapped in sexual slavery, we can be quick to ask the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

It’s a valid question.

Looking from the outside at her situation – being forced to have sex with multiple men each night and living under the control of a pimp – it’s hard to imagine why a girl wouldn’t quickly devise a plan of escape.

Certainly, it’s hard to imagine she would want to stay in such a situation.

So, why. Why doesn’t she just leave?

Why Doesn't She Just Leave

Let’s put ourselves in her shoes again. Remember, the black converse. Well worn.

The date the older boy took you on was perfect. So romantic. He is the boy you’d been waiting for. He treats you well – buys you gifts, takes you to nice places, is genuinely interested in getting to know you more, sides with you in every argument with your mother, and always says you were the most beautiful and special girl he has ever dated.

He said he loved you. And you love him back. You trust him. So you give yourself to him.

Every available minute is spent with him. To the point that you can’t imagine your life without him. You rely on him for everything. There is no better guy for you.

The Honeymoon Phase.

After pimps recruit their victims, they begin the manipulation with showers of gifts and false love. Because he preys on her vulnerabilities, she quickly places her trust in him. That is when the switch is flipped. And the grooming begins.

Grooming is the process of breaking down victims emotionally, physically, and/or mentally, for the purpose of complete control.

This can be done with a variety of methods that can include:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual assault, including rape or gang rape
  • isolation or confinement
  • verbal insults, name-calling, and other forms of emotional abuse
  • burning or branding
  • confiscating identification documents
  • alienation from family and support system

The physical abuse, threats, rape, and insults have been going on for about about 3 weeks. It was terrifying when it first started happening. You wondered what you had done; why he started acting that way. You told him that you wanted to leave, but he threatened to kill your mother and hit you harder than he ever has before.

He started selling you. Making you have sex with other men, every night. If you don’t bring him a certain amount of money each night, the emotional and physical abuse you suffer sometimes makes you feel like you don’t want to live anymore. Some days, you don’t feel like you will ever get out. And what happens if you try to leave again? You can’t risk anyone you love getting killed. Plus, you have no idea where you would go to get help. Would anyone even believe you?

After the grooming process, victims stay for a number of reasons. Threat or use of physical or emotional violence being a common factor. Other factors include:

  • lack of knowledge of social service systems
  • shame, self-blame, and fear
  • dependency, loyalty to pimp, and false promises
  • threats of reprisals against loved ones
  • hopelessness and feeling like they will never get out of their situation

Pimps are smart. They know what angles to work, they know how to use the vulnerabilities of a victim to their advantage. Everything that they say and do influences a victim in the decision to stay or try and leave.

It is never as simple as walking away.

What would you do in her situation? Would you try to leave?

Domestic Sex Trafficking: The Criminal Operations of the American Pimp [PDF]
Basic Stages of Grooming for Sexual Exploitation
In Plain Sight: About Sex Trafficking

After hearing about trafficking in college, I worked for organizations like International Justice Mission and Not For Sale, which truly showed me how much I wanted to raise awareness about human trafficking. With my passion for education and love for blogging, I knew volunteering to be a blog writer was the perfect role for me with Ascent 121. I am so happy to be part of a team that is doing amazing work!