What follows below are excerpts from an interview conducted by the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force with the owners of two different escort agencies in Lincoln Nebraska. Escort agencies are of interest in the issue of trafficking because of their connection with prostitution. The complete interview is found in the full report of the Task Force available at this link:
Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force – July 2013 Report
We don’t think of trafficking as a problem that’s all that visible in our community. But every time you hear of an escort service or a spa or a massage parlor – consider that prostitution and trafficking are not far away. By the way what’s with the map? That’s a six month snap-shot of where on-line ads for escort services showed up in the Omaha metro. Looks like a lot of traffick to me!
So if you interview the owners of those services, what’s the picture look like? See for yourself! Wow…let’s be in prayer and let’s be engaged in our community to know what is happening and not be afraid to report what we see to the authorities.
Appendix F: Questionnaire of Lincoln Escort Services
(Feb 2013 – The interview is recorded with their exact comments. Also, we interviewed with the understanding we were researchers not criminal investigators.)
1. How did you get involved with the sex trade?
Grew up around it…. Not from family members but from friends and peers doing it.
2. What is your best estimate of how many women are involved in the sex trade in Lincoln, also Omaha?
A lot more than you would think… In Lincoln 200 to 300 ladies in a 3year time span, probably closer to 300. You have females from age 15 to 40. College students and girls from low-income neighborhoods. A few women from Omaha but we tried to stay away from Omaha because it is much more dangerous. We would TRIPLE the number of women that are involved in Omaha, but it could be more than that.
3. What is your best estimate of how many minors are involved in the sex trade in Lincoln? In Omaha?
The one escort owner was 15 when she was first approached to go have sex for money by a pimp. In Lincoln, the escorting agencies are pretty good about not hiring minors…. It is the “street” pimps that don’t care how old you are… in Lincoln we do have these…. I would guess in a given year at least 50 to 100 minors are trafficked in Nebraska and have sex for money. In Omaha, once again, the demand is greater.
4. What is the average age of entry into the sex trade?
12 to 14…. it comes to that point of desperation and not seeing another option. It varies but the seed is planted to explore the sex trade from the time you start being sexually active and not understanding what sex is intended for… many young girls are having sex already with multiple partners trying to fill the voids in their life so when they see they can get paid for the same thing they are already doing… it just makes sense to do it.
5. What are the most common reasons people get involved with the sex trade business?
Many minors are coerced and encouraged with promises of clothing, money, an easier life. Many minors and even some women are on the streets and have no stability, no way of providing for themselves… this money is fast and comes the same day, you’re not waiting 2 weeks to get a check. We see a lot of grown women willing to go into prostitution out of desperation but then it comes to a point of not being able to leave because their boyfriend (that turns into a pimp figure) is beating them up and demanding them to go get that money!
6. Once a woman gets involved in the sex trade business how easy is it for them to get out?
Not easy, people don’t understand this part… If a woman is already willingly to take off her clothes for money, to go to multiple strangers’ houses and hotel rooms where anything could happen – rape, murder, held captive, robbed, beat up – they don’t think highly of themselves and their low self-esteem didn’t happen overnight…. Add on a boyfriend beating you or an addiction or knowing you have no education or skills…. It’s nearly impossible.
8. Overall, is the sex trade a violent business?
Yes, almost all ladies in this business have been robbed at a call or an attempted robbery. As a business owner you get threatened by some of the “ladies” boyfriends for not giving them enough calls and you get threatened for not hiring or working a young lady. We have been personally robbed a number of times.
9. Do you have stories of violence toward women in the sex trade business?
Many, from girls having to have facial reconstruction and false teeth from being beat up, being held hostage, and men threatening children or one even sexually abusing the child while the mom is locked out of the room.
11. How does the sex trade change between Lincoln and Omaha?
For whatever reason, Omaha is very dangerous because of territories. Certain owners or pimps do not let other women besides their own work in those areas and see those areas as being theirs. In Omaha, the chances of you being robbed, beat up, or raped are much greater than Lincoln. In Lincoln we have more women owned escorting businesses and Omaha has more male owned. All the women that we know that own their business now are former workers themselves and understand and care more for the dangers…. While the men never having been in the situation only see the money and care less for the risk that the women take.
13. What is the typical business model of a sex business?
One owner, hires, fires, collects the money. There are some men owned that let women operate them because most other dudes don’t want to deal with another man. The only time you really bring in help is for photography and drivers.
14. Does the use of the sex trade business increase significantly at NE football games and other large events?
Yes, the phones ring all day and all night when there is almost any event in town.
17. Are there boys or men employees? Is their experience different?
Yes, a few men. They are in demand, both straight and gay men, for bachelorette parties. This is common and in most cases that is pretty legit. They dance for money. Transgender workers can make a lot of money. More than just a man or woman…. They can double their prices… Men call often for transgender.
18. How often does the individual paying for services of an escort enter into illegal activity?
About 85 or 90% of the time.
20. What can be done to identify and help women that are involved in the sex trade?
Passing laws to help identify would be good. But there needs to be a place where they can come talk to a counselor or sort through their thoughts…. Sometimes just like in domestic violence or a rehab situation they need that support to tell them…. They are victims and they deserve better and they have a real concern. They are not hearing this…
22. Are escorts typically unwilling to tell law enforcement that they are experiencing violence and control over their lives?
They don’t tell much to the police. Especially when it comes to the sex trade.