Women Exploiting Women in a Dog Eat Dog World

The A21 Campaign recently shared these stats via twitter:

52% of traffickers who recruit victims are men, 42% are women and 6% are teams. #ShockingTruth

Setting aside the fact that trafficking statistics are hard to nail down due to the nature of the trade, there is a sad truth embedded in this tweet.  In a dog eat dog world, women are exploiting other women.

On the streets of Las Vegas, Hispanic women hand out promo cards with naked body parts of other women, with a phone number people can call “for a good time.”  I tried to make eye contact with the women handing out cards, but it was impossible.  They had likely been pushed into a job like this out of financial desperation.

As outlined in the documentary, It’s a Girl, in India and China women are killing their own babies based solely on the fact that they are female.  The cultural and legal pressures of having a girl have created an environment in which mothers not only kill or abandon their own daughters, but urge other women to do the same.

While we were in Amsterdam, we met a young woman who, despite being a trafficking victim herself, began to threaten, abuse, and train “newer” girls at the demand of her pimp.  In some cases, once a girl begins to “lose her value,” her trafficker will hold out a carrot that is hard to resist:

“If you bring ten new girls to me, I will let you go.”


Around the world, there are some women who are fighting to legalize or fully decriminalize prostitution, even though it promotes gender inequality by creating a culture in which men view women as commodities.  These regions often end up being hot spots for trafficking and exploitation.  Every woman in the sex industry I have spoken with is against sex trafficking and wishes for it to end. However, the industry they promote can end up inflicting harm on other women.  Men are conveniently silent on the issue, happy to let women fight the battles on their behalf.

We also must remember that women are not immune from the lure of money.  Sometimes women exploit other women for the same reason as men do – the money is just that good.

The way that women treat other women reminds me of how child soldiers are sometimes forced to shoot their own families, or prisoners of war are forced to carry out torture on fellow countrymen.  Exploiting or hurting a person in our “tribe” strips away pieces of our humanity and assaults our identity.

The exploiter and the exploited are both enslaved.


As easy as it would be for me to say that women need to stop exploiting or hurting each other, I have never been in a position where I’ve had to make those decisions.

I have never been forced to make a bad choice because of poverty.  I have never been pressured by cultural norms to kill my baby simply because it is a girl.  I have never had the promise of  freedom held before me in exchange for luring others into the sex trade.  I don’t know what it is like to find my identity in how much sex I can sell.

And so the statistic that 42% of traffickers are women humbles me and saddens me.  I am humbled because for some reason, I have been given a life in which I have not had to make such difficult decisions.  I often wonder what I would do if faced with such circumstances.  What does justice look like when I am not worthy to judge?

But as I stand humbled, I am also saddened.  Everything in me longs for women to stand in solidarity with other women, in compassion and with courage.

I usually like to wrap up my blog posts in a nice little bow, with some food for thought and possible solutions.  But sometimes I stand at a loss.  Sometimes I think I just need to allow myself to be sad, to mourn a world where human beings prey on each other.



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  1. Sara says

    While it may be hard to come to terms with, I don’t think it’s all that strange that so many traffickers are women. I see it as people simply trying to be as successful as possible within the system/culture that they are trying to navigate.

  2. Alcide Bouchard says

    How is it helpful to feel sorry for those who conciously do these things?
    Yes, I am greatful for my parents, who taught me right from wrong. Yes, I was raised in a good environment, but it’s that kind of thinking that tends to soften what should be very serious consequences for such crimes. I reach out to the lost and lonely in downtown Winnipeg every day. I take in homeless and hungry people who are trying to find work. They have to sleep on my floor because I don’t have a large home. I have a heart for people, but if I ever catch someone doing something like this they will have to hope that the police catch them before I do. There is NOTHING lower or more depraved than missleading someone into the sex trade. There may be a reason they are doing what they’re doing but we all make choices, don’t we? Are you also feeling sorry for the men? How about the men who are starving? How about those who are starving with only one arm? No arms? Missing one are and one eye? Blind as a bat? etc.. There is no excuse. They will meet an ugly end unless they repent. I don’t want to see anyone go to hell, but these people are earning their way there. We all have challenges. Good people must stand against this type of thing; at least they used to…

    • Michelle Brock says

      Yes Alcide, we absolutely have to stand up against what is wrong, and for what is right. No question. However, I am a proponent of restorative justice, in which perpetrators are given an opportunity to restore and rebuild their humanity – only then can they truly come to a place of repentance that is real and makes lasting change. As Ghandi so famously said, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” The actions of traffickers makes my blood boil, but I have also sat face to face with some of them, who are desperately broken for what they have done. Justice must be served, it must be done in the context of a much bigger story.

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