Protecting Your Child From a Romeo Pimp
“I thought he loved me and then he sold me.”
-Romeo Pimp Survivor
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world. The term refers to a bevy of acts that includes both forced labor and sexual exploitation. Many people think of the movie “Taken” when they think of young girls being sex trafficked. More than 100,000 children a year are forced into sex trade, but this isn’t because of a massive kidnapping organization. Instead, it is because pimps now have easy access to children through the internet and cell phones. One of the ways traffickers target girls and young women is through romantic relationships, both online and in person. These types of traffickers are often referred to as Romeo Pimps.
What is a Romeo Pimp?
A Romeo Pimp, or Loverboy, is the type of human trafficker who tries to get young girls, teens or women to fall in love with them. Romeo pimps will treat their victims as girlfriends upfront often showering them with gifts such as jewelry or clothing. This relationship and the victim’s trust will eventually be used to the pimp's advantage. The Romeo pimp will use his influence to exploit his victim by forcing her into the sex industry.
Gaining a victim’s trust can occur online or in person. In both online and in person scenarios, the pimp will promise a better future. If the victim and the pimp have never met the pimp will use these promises to lure his victims to his town.
While all of this is going on, the pimp will slowly work to isolate his intended victim from his or her family, friends and community. In essence, he creates an environment where the victim is totally dependent on him (or her) for material and emotional needs.
Once the brainwashing is complete, things will quickly change. The pimp will then convince her that he needs her help to make money. The money will support them and their dream. Refusal to turn tricks may result in a beating or other abuse until the victim complies.
How to Spot a Romeo Pimp
As a parent or guardian, you walk a fine line between giving your child age-appropriate privacy while trying to keep a watchful eye on who they are with and what they are doing online. But it is no coincidence that the increase in sex trafficking among children correlates with the rise of social media use. The estimated age of entry into child prostitution is 12 years old. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation also reports that girls as young as 9 years old have been known to be recruited for prostitution.
While the world may seem scarier today than it did 30 years ago, there are a few proactive steps you can take to protect your child from Romeo Pimp brainwashing.
The more you know about pimps, Romeo and otherwise, you’ll have a better chance at spotting the kinds of manipulation pimps use on girls and young women. It is also important that you become familiar with anti-trafficking organizations in your community.
Educate Your Daughters (And Sons)
We tend to get into little bubbles where we think our world is safe. This false sense of security may prevent us from speaking to our children about the harsh realities that exist in the world. As a result, most girls are unaware of the threats that surround them. Without knowledge, they become easy targets. Share information with your children based on their maturity level. Research indicates that pimps may begin recruiting as young as ten years old.
Your child should know:
What to do if he or she is approached by a stranger.
What to do if adults in authority positions start giving your child special attention or gifts.
That secrets between adults and children are inappropriate.
In general, we think of bars and dark alleys when we think of sex traffickers. However, the scary truth is in many cases they are in wholesome places like neighborhood or community parks, schools, malls and movie theaters looking for vulnerable young girls. Determining if your child is in a safe environment and being supervised by a trusted adult is necessary for their safety. If no adult is present, always encourage your child to stick with her group friends and never go off alone with anyone.
Monitor Communication and Web Use
The secrecy of text messaging is a benefit to sex traffickers. In many cases, they can quietly brainwash your child while you’re in the same room. Keep an eye on any new numbers that appear in your child’s call log. Moreover, ask questions! In addition, it is important that you ensure your child is not a part of any social media before they are old enough. Many of the popular sites have minimum age requirements spelled out during the registration process. If your child is old enough to have social media, always remind them to be mindful of what they post online. Identifying information such as the school name or sports team location can lead a trafficker right to your neighborhood or front door.
Know Your Child’s Friends
And their parents. Recruiters can be students at your child’s school or parents of students there looking to make some money. They’ll introduce your child to a pimp and get paid for bringing in a new girl. It is best that you know your child’s friends, as well as their families.
Keep An Eye Out For Older Boyfriends
Perhaps the most telling sign of a Romeo Pimp is an older guy seeking the affections of your child. Pimps don’t usually kidnap, they manipulate. The most prevalent form of trafficking is a man in his late teens or 20s selecting a teenage girl to make her fall in love. These men are constantly thinking of ways to trick young girls into doing what they want them to do. You should always be wary of whom your child is dating and thoroughly investigate them. Even if your child is over 18, he or she is not too old or mature to escape sex trafficking.
Shower Your Daughter With Love
Yes, it sounds cliche, but these pimps are often able to brainwash their victims because of self-esteem issues, broken homes or generally troubled childhoods. While all genders are affected by sex trafficking, low self-esteem particularly affects adolescent and teenage girls. This is exactly why Romeo Pimps prey on this age group. Because of this, it is important that you reaffirm your child’s self-worth every chance you get. The best way to combat low self-esteem is to give your child a shield of love. Reminding your child of her worth will do wonders to protect from her attempts to lure her into the trafficking web. Additionally, reminding your child that she is loved and that your home is a safe place will protect her from the threats of a pimp. Girls who are trafficked are often living in constant fear.
Her pimp may threaten her by saying, “If you stop working or if you tell anyone, I’ll kill your family;” or they may say “If you stop I’ll tell your parents what you did and they’ll be disgusted that they will never love you again.” Make your home a safe place you are reminding your children that you will do anything to help and protect them. Open communication with your child is the best preventative measure.
Your child might be safe, but as noted, traffickers often prey on girls who come from broken homes. Don’t let your concern for this issue begin and end at your child. By helping girls with no families to look after them you are taking the power away from sex traffickers. Look for opportunities to volunteer, fundraise and raise awareness around the issue of sex trafficking.
Getting the Help You Deserve
If you are a victim of human trafficking or suspect that internet sex trafficking is occurring in your community, we suggest you call the Polaris Project. Polaris is a nationwide non-profit. The organization employs experienced professionals to guide victims and survivors of human trafficking. Also, you may call the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Professionals undergo training to respond to human trafficking victims with shelter and security. Additionally, the can help victims get access to medical treatment, food, clothing, legal services, counseling, and other aid. If you are a human sex trafficking victim, or if you know of a situation of human trafficking, we can help you get assistance and navigate the legal system.