"So here I am, thinking I'd made it. I'd met Prince Charming and my life was going to be amazing. A couple months later, Halloween night, he sat me down in the kitchen and said, 'I'm actually a pimp. And the time you've spent with me isn't free.'" Yeah, then the "subtle" technique was replaced by the more direct approach. "He told me, 'If you leave or tell anyone, I'll kill you, and I'll kill your family.' That started a year and a half of complete hell. I didn't know anything about pimps aside from rap songs or 'pimp your ride.' He explained, 'I'm going to take you, drop you off at the casino. Sit at the bar. The first person who walks up to you, tell them you want to negotiate a price.'"
And if you think casino security would help stop this? It doesn't.
See, this is what complicates the "Why not legalize prostitution? It's a transaction between two consenting adults!" argument. Where you find prostitution, you always find some who are there against their will. Not that the customers knew, or cared. "I wouldn't be surprised if not one of them knew [I was trafficked]. Nobody ever asked. It was all fun and games -- party time."
We also talked with "Kay," who works for a charity helping former trafficking victims in Europe's sex-trafficking capital, Bulgaria. Christina's story sounded very familiar to her. She told us the story of one woman she worked with:
"She's from a small village in Bulgaria. And she started dating an older man. ... She was 13 or 14 and he was 19 or 20. It's normal here for a 16-year-old to date a 20- to 21-year-old." (The age of consent there is 14 -- 18 if you're gay.) "So ... she was dating him for about a year. She didn't know this, but he was grooming her. 'Grooming' means you're making and creating a woman who will at some point prostitute herself for your affection."
Which is a process as common as it is alarmingly sophisticated.
This is pimping on a level much more unsettling than anything a man with gold teeth, a cane, and a fabulous hat could accomplish. And it also rings true with the experience of the former sex slave we spoke with last year, who was forced into prostitution by her parents. "You have this man who says he loves you," says Kay, "and he's providing for you. He may even seduce your family with his charm. Then behind closed doors he gets you to start doing things sexually, starts with, 'I owe my buddy a big debt. If you can do this one time it'll clear my debt ...'"