The new documentary Deceived is a chilling take on modern domestic sex trafficking. Featuring interviews with pimps, prostitutes and law enforcement officials, the film reveals how pimps troll social media for vulnerable women who may be lured out of their homes and forced into prostitution. Cosmo sat down with directors John Keith Wasson and Jane Wells to find out more about the side of prostitution that most people don’t see.
There is a theme in your film that prostitution is not a victimless crime and these women are sold as a form of slavery. In the credits, we learn that potentially 90% of prostitutes are in the industry against their will. Where does this statistic come from?
Jane Wells: Statistics are necessarily hard to come by because I don’t know if the research has ever been funded. But in the life continuum of someone working in the sex industry, I believe it’s as high as 90 to 95 percent [for people who are] either are in a situation [where they’re being forced to work] or have seen coercion at some point in their careers. But I think the biggest problem is that very, very, very few people choose to work in prostitution as a career choice because that’s what they chose to do when they grew up.
Why do you think it’s labeled as a victimless crime?
John Keith Wasson: The media is certainly a starting point. There are loads of movies and songs and all kinds of stuff that keeps a bit of a glorious life alive if you look at the pimp point of view or if you are a client the girl is just trying to go through dental school. And so on. We all need to be on the same page and recognize that the status quo is not that hot when it comes to this particular situation.
Many young women in the film were recruited via the Internet before being forced into prostitution. Do you think this is a new behavior related to accessing this technology, or just an adaptation of old tactics?
Jane Wells: Well, I think pimps are very savvy criminals. They will therefore use the resources at their disposal, and of course the Internet, tablets and mobile phones are the last resource. I think it’s rather disarming for us to see this now. [Girls are] recruited via their phone in their own living room in front of their parents. It is a very alarming trend. But there is no doubt that there will be other adaptations as technology advances in our culture.
John Keith Wasson: The profession is timeless, and it doesn’t matter what technology you throw at it. A shrewd street spirit will find out how to deal with the disadvantaged or the disillusioned.
Jane Wells: They will find ways to find these people. Rain, the girl in the movie – when she was 11, a man approached her as she was walking down the street, which tells you how he found her. The other two were recruited via Mocospace [a chatroom and social game website] in their living rooms. It could be through Facebook at a bus station, an airport, anywhere.
You document some pretty horrific situations. Was there something you encountered that really shocked you?
Jane Wells: The tendency for it to rejuvenate is shocking. I think the financial situation that girls earn absolutely zero percent is shocking. Our main thing that we try to get across is that it affects everyone.
Did you meet someone in the sex trade who supported it or felt it was a viable career?
Jane Wells: We spoke with a sex worker. I thought what she was doing was 100% appropriate, but she made the choice to do what she does. She receives more and more questions from people who are asking more and more to join her. She is afraid because people are being abused. She said there are a lot of crocodiles in this water, so she’s afraid of which direction it will take.
Do you think these girls are reaching a point where they are no longer “forced” into direct prostitution, but they don’t leave because that’s all they know?
John Keith Wasson: There is so much shame for them that it is difficult to imagine life outside of this life. And then our culture shames these people too because we always see them as criminals before victims, and that’s where we all have a role to play. Even using the word prostitute implies something negative and derogatory in some way. The other thing is that it is very difficult to get another job.
What do you hope people take away from the film?
Jane Wells: Hope it turns out if there is a girl who sees this movie and understands that this could happen to her, and she thinks twice about how she interacts with a lovely handsome man who wants to be her boyfriend and starts petting her, she ‘I’ll just be a little more careful. And I hope young men will see it and decide that maybe they don’t want to become pimps and glorify pimp culture. On a larger level, I hope we start the conversation about what it really is and not behind the fantasy that it’s like A pretty woman or in Taken, with Liam Neeson’s daughter somewhere in Europe.
John Keith Wasson: I want people to ask, “Can you really do something?” I think overall we are ready for more education on the subject. As a group we are starting to notice a little more and be a little more sympathetic to the horrible situation. You don’t jump in saying she’s a “bitch” and it doesn’t matter, which we’ve unfortunately heard sometimes. Even in some of the best police departments, you hear derogatory words. It all makes a huge difference. We hope to continue this conversation.
Tricked will be available on video on demand in 2014 and can currently be requested for educational distribution by visiting their website.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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