On their website, Project Respect lists the following reasons behind the demand for trafficked women in the Australian sex industry:
- a lack of women in Australia prepared to do prostitution
- customers demanding women who are compliant
- customers demanding women they can be violent towards
- racialised ideas that Asian women have certain qualities, for example that they are more compliant and will accept higher levels of violence.
This is sickening. Vulnerable women are being further exploited in our cities, on our roads, in our buildings because of the terrible abuse they have endured in the past – leaving them vulnerable and frail to defend themselves. I don’t care where she comes from or how ‘compliant’ she may be, there is NO excuse for exploiting a woman’s body. None whatsoever.
Why do women stay in prostitution? It’s a question most of us have asked at some time or another. I certainly have. Project Respect answers this question on their site (which I’ve abbreviate a little):
Intimidation, fear, psychological and physical violence.
The natural reaction of women taken into sexual exploitation is to protest and fight back. Traffickers respond with sexual, physical and psychological violence that cripples women into believing there’s no way out. Traffickers are cunning and by learning what the women value, they can manipulate their strengths and weaknesses. But in between the violence they will show kindness. The women hope it was all a terrible nightmare that will fade with time.
The violence of the customers and the strategic violence of the traffickers keep the women conditioned and controlled. Should a customer use violence or refuse to use a condom, the woman can’t refuse him or leave the room. She’ll only be ordered back. If she escapes she may be hunted down and beaten.
Traffickers also use other tactics to demoralise and disempower the women. Their passports are taken away, information is withheld along with food and medicine, and their money is controlled. They can threaten to hurt the women’s families or inform the Department of Immigration that the woman is in breach of her visa conditions, or claim that the police are corrupt so won’t help them anyway. Traffickers also show the women photos of what happens to women who run away. They encourage drug dependencies and gambling. In short, they emphasise that there’s no way out.
As the debt contract period continues, women are allowed some freedom. By the end of the contract, women will have no physical constraints on them at all. But by then their spirit has been broken. They know the consequences of their desperate actions and they still possess a glimmer of hope that when their debt is paid they might be able to stay and make some money for themselves. Ironically, women at the end of their contracts are less valuable to traffickers as profit has been extracted from them.
Traffickers often operate like domestic violence perpetrators because they offer kindness and freedom following periods of intense violence. They maintain their control by exposing the woman to seemingly endless violence one moment, then easing off and giving the woman a sense of false hope. If only they do what the trafficker demands, then everything will be okay. They won’t be raped, beaten and threatened again. Under such circumstances women will put up with demands they wouldn’t have accepted only weeks before.
Society used to condemn women who remained in a domestic violence situation just as it may condemn women who remain in trafficking situations. We now understand that women do everything they can to resist, to escape, yet eventually give up, their spirit wearied and their bodies beaten. Like domestic violence we can only stop trafficking if we stop men’s rights to control, use and injure women. Women will not be trafficked if there is not a market to absorb them.
The people at Project Respect work directly with women involved in the sex industry in Victoria Australia, including those who are there because they were trafficked. They work closely with the women, providing information, referrals, support, counselling, emergency accommodation and ongoing support especially in the areas of education and employment. They also work to raise awareness within the community and provide specialised training to community organisations.
For more information, visit their website www.ProjectRespect.org.au
Wanna do something about sex trafficking in Australia? Get involved with Project Respect by making a monetary donation, volunteering your time, applying for a job, joining a campaign, reading up on their reform recommendations or writing letters. Visit their Get Involved page.