Sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Child sex trafficking includes any child involved in commercial sex. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry. Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand. Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.
Sex trafficking occurs at truck stops in the United States often in two forms, through pimp controlled prostitution and through fake massage businesses. Pimps frequently move their victims from city to city, forcing victims to engage in commercial sex at truck stops along the way. Brothels disguised as massage businesses are also sometimes present at or near truck stops. These networks control women through confinement and complicated debt bondage schemes.
When does it become trafficking?
Not all those working in prostitution at truck stops are trafficking victims. Sometimes, women offering commercial sex at truck stops are there independently and are not under the control of a pimp. However, just as is the case in street prostitution and escort services, victims under the control of a pimp have been found in a number of trafficking cases at truck stops. Women providing commercial sex in fake massage businesses are also often at high-risk for sex trafficking.
Prostitution becomes trafficking when the victim is a minor, or when a controller uses force, fraud and/or coercion to maintain control over the victim and to cause him/her to engage in commercial sex.
Transient nature of truckers and traffickers-Efforts by law enforcement to stop trafficking at truck stops in one location or region are undermined as the johns and pimps simply relocates to truck stops under less scrutiny. As a result, victims remain isolated from the surrounding communities.
Unique characteristics of truck stop trafficking
Advertising-Sex trafficking at truck stops has its own slang and unique means of communication:
pimps advertise their victims over CB radios using code, johns search online trucker boards for information about where to purchase prostitution, johns signal that they want commercial sex using their headlights or stickers on their windows, and victims knock on the cab doors of trucks in the parking lots. Fake massage businesses at or near truck stops are commonly advertised on billboards or on signs at or near the truck stops.
Perpetration of related crimes-Pimps sometimes demand that their victims steal wallets or other items from the truckers, and occasionally, while truckers are distracted by the commercial sex act, pimps steal cargo.
Transportation across state lines-Often, especially if the victim is a minor, pimps require her to ask the john for a ride across state lines, so that the john, not the pimp, is in violation of the Mann Act. The Mann Act prohibits transportation across state lines for the purposes of prostitution.
Regional Scope-Typically, pimps will require their victims to engage in commercial sex at multiple truck stops. Individuals prostituted at truck stops are typically moved out of an area after two or three weeks, and may be moved through a dozen or more states.
The availability of statistics is limited due to the crime's hidden nature and limited awareness by law enforcement and social service providers.
Victims of pimp-controlled sex trafficking are commonly forced to meet quotas of $500-$1,000 a night. Victims working a truck stop typically ear $5-$100 per sex act. All earnings are confiscated by their pimps.
Victims of sex trafficking within fake massage businesses are commonly forced to have sex with 6 to 10 men a day.