The Missing Piece of the U.S. Anti-Human Trafficking Effort


Studies show that a difficult youth can contribute to the decision to engage in sex trafficking later in life.
Photo: U.S. Department of State

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WASHINGTON, September 13, 2011—Many people in the U.S. believe that the problem of domestic violence and broken family structures only affect the immediate family. They also believe that pimping is the responsibility of the individual and fail to understand the factors that contribute to the choice. 


However, sexual exploitation and trade are no longer the problem of a pimp and his family alone. It is becoming a serious problem for the U.S. society as a whole. The U.S. has been on the forefront of the fight against global human trafficking for a decade. Every year, its resources are geared towards the effort to stop human trafficking around the world. In 2010, the U.S. awarded $5.5 million to combat human trafficking in Haiti. Just last week, it also granted $500,000 to local law enforcement and other groups in Buffalo, New York to improve their anti-human trafficking efforts.

But, unless the U.S. addresses the problem of American youth entering the sex industry to pimp others, its fight against human trafficking will never stop.

One scholar says that the problem of American youth pimping others, among many other crimes, is attributed to the lack of proper role models in their lives. Surely, youth need positive role models who will teach them that exploiting others are wrong and that their actions bear consequences. But, that is not enough. They also need changes in their mindsets that they can be anything but “a drug dealer, a thug, or a pimp in the hood.”

Meet Prontiss Houseworth. He was arrested for sex trafficking women in Nashville, Tennessee just a few weeks ago. According to local news, Prontiss allegedly threatened to kill the victims and their families if the victims refused to prostitute for his financial gain.

The victims stated that Prontiss put them in the back of his car with the child locks on and transported them against their will from Atlanta, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee. They also testified that upon arrival in Nashville, Prontiss confined them in a motel room for four days and forced them to have sex with several men. At the time of arrest, Prontiss was only 18 years old, which suggests that he likely had started pimping other women as a minor.

Surely, different cultures and environments influence a child in different ways. But, no child ever says that he or she wants to grow up and become a pimp unless he or she experienced some sort of trauma in one’s life. Prontiss probably had some reasons for turning to a life in the sex trade. 

Research on former pimps reveals a glimpse of truth as to what might have caused someone like Prontiss to begin pimping young women. The research says that some people become pimps because it gives them a sense of power. One former pimp said he grew up with a mother who was exploited by her male partner. He said his mother’s boyfriend physically, verbally, and sexually abused his mother on a regular basis. He further stated that he became a pimp to become more powerful than his mother’s boyfriend and eventually to retaliate against him.

Other former pimps said they began exploiting women as means of survival. One stated that after the state placed him in foster care, his foster father sexually abused him on a regular basis. After he ran away, he began pimping to support himself.

Some people say they became pimps because they wanted to feel respected. One former pimp said that he chose to become a pimp after watching his neighbor. His neighbor wore nice clothes and drove a fancy car. The neighbor also had many girls who prostituted for him. He said that it seemed to him that the neighbor was powerful, strong, and respected, and he wanted that life style.

Though all pimps had different reasons to begin exploiting others, they all shared three common denominators from their childhood, poverty, domestic violence, and broken family structures. While the U.S. needs to continuously combat human trafficking with harsh penalties and deterrence, it also needs to find ways to prevent young men from entering sex industry to exploit others. 

 Follow Youngbee Dale on Twitter @ybdale.


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