Articles on Modern Day Enslavement - Zola M Dube

Initiation and ritual abuse applied to human trafficking

In Research Topics on June 24, 2010 at 10:23 PM

Ritual abuse can be defined as organized sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, which can be systematic and sustained over a long period of time. It involves the use of rituals, with or without a belief system. It usually involves more than one person as abusers. Ritual abuse usually starts in early childhood and involves using patterns of learning and development to sustain the abuse and silence the abused(1).

Ritual Abuse Definition, Healing Our Past Experiences (HOPE)

When people think about ritual abuse the mind may conjure images of activity taking place in dark rooms, performed by satanic cults and secret societies. Ritual abuse is also practiced by individuals and groups, namely people who sexually abuse children and are known by their victim(2). Human trafficking is another arena where ritual abuse is exercised. Within cults, sex abuse groups, and sex trafficking rings the purpose of ritual abuse is the same:  Condition the victim.

Ritualized abuse functions to destroy the identity of victims, create a sense of powerlessness and perpetual intimidation. As explained by Pauline Carruthers, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, abusers use repetition, routine and ritual to force [victims] into the patterns of behavior they require, to instill fear and ensure silence, thus protecting themselves(3).

Gangs and organized crime syndicates have built the foundation of today’s commercial sex industry on deliberate, methodical and brutal initiation and ritual abuse systems. Among the frequently used tactics are rape, gang rape; isolation, confinement, beatings; and branding and tattoos. This articles provides three examples of ritual abuse practices in Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, and United States.

Beatings, isolation and confinement

Bacha Bazi meaning “Boy Play” is a form of sexually slavery in Afghanistan involving male-child victims exclusively. It is an industry supported by wealthy and powerful businessmen and former warlords. Boys as young as 10 years old are sold by poor families under the guise of promises of a better life. In northern Afghanistan there are an estimated 60,000 street kids; providing an easy source of prey for pedophiles and pimps.

Wearing women’s clothing and make up, the boys are trained to dance and perform for groups of men. After a performance the boys “master” may choose to sell the boy for a night to the highest bidder. The children are frequently the victims of ritual abuse in the form of beatings, isolation, and confinement for attempting to escape or “disobedience” towards their master or client. It is not uncommon for boys seeking escape to be tracked and killed(4).

Branding and tattoos

In an article published in 2009, Susan Abram identifies a correlation between the commercial hip-hop industry and the glamorization of prostitution and pimping that informs sex trafficking to the disadvantage of victims(5). Pop culture and media fixation on illicit sex may partially explain what Bradley Myles of Polaris Project has identified as a similar prostitution business model across the nation(6). Typically, the initial’s or street names of pimps are branded on the body of traffic victims to serve as a reminder to that he/she is “property” under ownership of the pimp. Symbols of material wealth and possession, such as dollar signs and the tag “Daddy”, are also commonly applied. In 2009 Professor Donna M. Hughes collected photographic evidence of the practice of tattooing underage sex trafficking victims(7), demonstrating that tattooing is a national practice.

Repeated rape and gang rape

Since the fall of communism, sex trafficking has become the fastest growing form of organized crime in Eastern Europe. In February 2006, PBS Frontline published the documentary “Sex Slavery”(8). The story documents the journey of Viorel to find his wife; abducted from her homeland and sold into modern day sex slavery. “Sex Slavery” provides a disturbing account of the initiation into modern day slavery, marked by repeated gang rape to suppress resistance and instill compliance and fear.

Loss of identity

The types of ritual abuse explored in this article represent the potential for the effect of severe trauma…, [as a consequence of] usually extreme, repetitive physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse or, what mental health professionals term Dissociative Identity Disorder(9). As with exposure to ritual abuse, it stands to reason that conditioning the behavior of a sex trafficking victim leads to the display of multiple distinct identities according to environment. The victims identity before a pimp, client, and co-victim may differ drastically. As human rights advocates explore ways to take care of sexual enslavement victims, ritual abuse appears to be a viable area for gathering information on post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. To this end, through the work of Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald, the United Nations has taken a decisive lead in making the connection between ritual abuse and human trafficking(10).

– Zola Dube

1, 3. Healing Our Past Experiences. About Ritual Abuse

2. Munro, Kali. Report of the ritual abuse task force. Los Angles county commission for women. March 1991. Retrieved 2010-06-23

4. The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. Producer, Najibullah Quraishi. PBS Frontline. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-20

5. Abram, Susan. Daily News Los Angeles. Showing prostitutes a way off the streets. 27 July 2009

6. Kristof, Nicholas D. New York Times. The Pimps’ Slaves. 16 March 2008

7. Rowe, Claudia. Seattle Post Intelligencer. No way out: Teen girls sell bodies in Seattle. 30 June 2008

8. Sex Slaves. Producers, Ric Esther Bienstock, Felix Golubev, Simcha Jacobovici. PBS Frontline. 7 February 2006. Retrieved 2010-06-22

9. Dryden-Edwards, Dr. Roxanne. Mental Health: Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) Retrieved 2010-06-22

10. Sarson, J. & MacDonald, L. Ritual abuse-torture. The most unspoken face of human trafficking. 48th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. United Nations Headquarters, New York City. March 2004


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