Recruiting the Vulnerable
“Brittany met a man at her local mall who offered her a job at his restaurant. Instead of working as a waitress, Brittany was forced to sell sex in a hotel room.”
– from Polaris Survivor Stories
Traffickers profit from finding and recruiting people to exploit. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. They may make elaborate promises of a place to live, a job, or gifts of clothing and jewelry.
Controllers may also act as romantic pursuers and initially offer love and support in order to gain their victim’s trust. While television and film plots have frequently depicted traffickers as kidnapping their victims and forcing them into prostitution, these situations are rare in comparison to the number of victims recruited through other means.
Many youth who lack supportive home lives said they considered commercial sex as one of their only viable options. Youth who are supported by state agencies, including foster children, children in the juvenile justice system, victims of child abuse and neglect, runaway and homeless youth, and LGBTQ youth estranged from their families, are particularly vulnerable, and may lack other sources of emotional, social, or material support.
A number of survivors disclosed struggling with substance abuse prior to entering their trafficking situation. In these instances, controllers often recruited their victims by offering them drugs.