(Reposted with permission from CocaFly.com)
Nola Brantley wants you to keep one word in mind when talking about the girls traded on Oaklandâ€™s streets, â€œchildren.â€
“We don’t realize they’re children because of the word prostitution” said Brantley, executive director of MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth). The non-profit helps victims of sexual exploitation transition to stable lives. More than 70 people from the community packed the meeting room at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland on Saturday morning for a summit on human trafficking. Brantley, 35, can personally relate to the girls she helps because she is a survivor of child trafficking.
â€œMy exploiter was a police officer and so my exploitation experience is unique,â€ Brantley told me after her presentation.
According to Brantley the children being pimped are between the ages of 11 and 17. What were you doing when you were 11? Keep in mind there are children out there younger than 11. Guess the average age a girl starts prostitution in the U.S.A. Give up? The average age a GIRL enters prostitution is 12 YEARS OLD. Most of the girls sexually enslaved are poor, prior victims of sexual abuse and black or Latino. Brantley told us that there are girls of all races out there but nearly 100 percent of her clients are African American. Half of all the girls they help are in foster care. Brantley thinks the boom began in Oakland seven years ago.
â€œThe influx of child trafficking in Oakland probably dates back to 2004,â€ she told me. â€œWe can look at lots of factors in society. What I attribute to it closest are two things. One is 9/11. All of our national resources targeted towards homeland security and away from social services and mental health. Number two is the increased penalty and sentencing around crack cocaine. That made it too risky and less profitable too sell crack and less risky and more profitable to sell little girls.â€
I gained so much from Brantleyâ€™s fiery and moving presentation. One component of her talk that especially struck me was the process of how pimps recruit and brainwash the girls. It starts off with the girls thinking theyâ€™re in a romantic relationship with the pimp. Brantley broke it down in 5 stages that I HIGHLY reccommend for parents and guardians to read:
The girl is in need of safety and everyday things we take for granted (i.e. clothes, money, love) are targets. They get into a relationship with the pimp. Heâ€™s her boyfriend, so she thinks. The girl gets compliments and promises to be taken care of by her â€œboyfriendâ€ who is really a pimp. Often a girl will recruit another girl to the streets. She shares with the girl how â€œgoodâ€ her â€œboyfriendâ€ â€œcaresâ€ for her and she should work for him.
â€œBoyfriendâ€ buys the child drugs, takes her shopping and to the salon. He letâ€™s her ride in the front seat. Brantley noted that you know these girls on the corners are children if they fall for the guy because he lets her ride shotgun and buys her sneakers. Those are things valuable to kids.
I took this as the stage when â€œboyfriendâ€ slows down on the romance. He doesnâ€™t want the girl around her family or friends. Nola added he acts like she is his property and starts checking her phone. He prefers she solely interacts with him or his other girls. â€œThe same tactics and techniques used to control victims of domestic violence are used to control these victims of trafficking,â€ Brantley told the crowd.
He convinces her why she should sell her body. Brantley said the pimp has sex with the girl and tells her the sex is so mind blowing that she could make a lot of money. He gets them to â€œput their self worth into their sexuality abilities,â€ Brantley noted. â€œBoyfriendâ€ promises to build a family with her and get a home. They tell her she doesnâ€™t have to do it for long. If sheâ€™s uncomfortable being out on the street, she can pull johns through the internet. Remember this is what he is saying to an 11 year old, 12 year old, 13, year old, etc. CHILD.
Brantley said pimps use violence when coercion fails and/or to keep the girls working. In other words, it’s how he keeps his “workers” in check. Pimps donâ€™t care if the girl is sick, she has to make that money. â€œI have sat with girls who have had cast iron skillets burned into their stomachs, cut from end to the other, been in comas, ran over by a vehicle, chemicals poured in to their ears and their vaginasâ€¦,â€Brantley shared.
I know itâ€™s a tough thing to read, especially because weâ€™re talking about children. No one, whether 11 or 111 should endure this. I usually donâ€™t do this after an interview, but I hugged Nola Brantley. She, and other women like her, is a hero. She is a soldier for women and children. She is a survivor and people like her give me so much hope. We have to save our girls. We MUST save our girls.
***Special thank you to MISSSEY volunteer and Cocoa Fly reader Merika Reagan for suggesting this post.***