At knife point, they are kidnapped: in their villages, on their way to school, or anywhere that a quick abduction can be carried out…or, with promises of wages that would be a gold mine in their own countries, they are offered regular employment abroad as nannies, waitresses, maids, or performing other modest work. Sometimes these offers are made at job fairs, the smiling woman or man assuring them that the jobs are real and honorable. Transportation and housing are included; all these young women need do is to sign the application and be at the airport on time.
In the economic devastation that “freedom” has brought upon the nations of the former Soviet Union, families with little or no income are commonplace. How can these girls refuse to try, hoping against hope that despite the stories they have heard, their own experience will be what was promised--honest work that will support themselves and their parents and siblings. And so, hope and fear intertwined, they go.
The reality awaiting these innocents is an apartment where they are confined with any number of other girls who have been similarly deceived and abducted. There begins their real job training, where they are “broken” to become suitable employees of the pimps who will purchase them from the brokers. The methods are effective, if not imaginative: starvation, gang rape, torture with lit cigarettes, beatings, threats to kill them and their families. Sometimes these murder threats are carried out; sometimes a slave-in-training will commit suicide.
Once in the grip of her pimp/owner, the slave is effectively abandoned in a culture where she does not know the language, and where those who should protect her are often numbered among her customers. Occasionally, there is a scandal about this, but somehow no one is ever punished. Those who are most likely to face consequences are those who complain, as evidenced by a well-known episode in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Kathryn Bolkovac, employed by DynCorp to provide police officers for the U.N., reported in 2000 that U.N. peacekeepers patronized nightclubs where girls as young as 15 were forced to dance nude and sexually service customers. Peacekeepers did nothing when pimps beat and raped girls who refused to have sex. Bolkovac also reported an officer charged with investigating the sex industry paid more than $1,000 to a bar owner for a girl he held captive in his apartment to work as a prostitute. (1)
For her indiscretion, Ms. Bolkovac was later fired on a trumped-up charge by DynCorp; she was subsequently vindicated in a U.N. review of the case. Lest it be thought that this was a fluke or somehow a one-time occurrence, consider the testimony of another whistleblower who paid with dismissal, former DynCorp employee, Benjamin Johnston, speaking about his former coworkers:
These guys would say, "I gotta go to Serbia this weekend to pick up three girls." They just talked about it like it was so cool and then bragged about how much they paid for them--usually between $600 and $800. The longer I stayed in Bosnia the worse these men acted. They would talk about locking the girls up in their apartments when they went to work so they couldn't escape. Then one day I heard a DynCorp employee brag that his girl wasn't a day over twelve. (2)
This trafficking in girls and women—for it is largely directed towards females—is not unknown to the world. The U. S. government began issuing the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, and created tiers of from 1 to 3, as a way of rating nations’ degree of compliance with basic standards aimed at restricting the practice of slavery. This step initially showed promise, as it forthrightly rated some of the worst offenders such as Israel, Greece, and South Korea in the basement category of 3. Then the politics of I use you/you use me, and backroom deals went into play. The offending nation of Israel experienced a miracle cure, vaulting from 3 to 1, and South Korea was similarly born again, this time as a compliant nation at the top tier. Nothing has changed in the circumstances of their importing foreign sex slaves; TIP has simply become the province of what Victor Malarek calls “crocodile tiers,” where the fate of women is subordinated to the more-important matters of Great Power diplomacy.
It complicates the official stance and image of the United States government that all over the world, there are brothels and well-known sites where U.S. soldiers go for some “R & R.” That this is allowed is an indictment of our own government; the local national governments accept it as preferable to having their own women enslaved. Today, the girls and women of Eastern Europe can be found in Tel Aviv, Seoul, and countless other locations, trapped by judicial, police, and cultural corruption operating on the principle of “better theirs than ours.”
And now, dear reader, with the holiday season upon us, I ask you to do something on behalf of these women and girls. Please read Victor Malarek's book The Natashas, and then communicate your concern to politicians of your choosing. The links listed at the end of this article provide a modest beginning for your own reference and research. What could be a better New Year's Resolution, on behalf of your own humanity and for the sake of the countless Natashas, to insist that government stop making excuses for slavers and soft-peddling their evil trade?
When you do communicate about it, please consider that it is important to distinguish between prostitution and sexual slavery. Using the wrong terms can cloud the rightful object of concern—the terrorizing and coercion of girls into sexual slavery. Referring to “the sex trade,” something that can be construed to include even such things as nude modeling, risks diluting what is at stake. The expression “forced prostitution,” though closer to the mark, still puts something of a gloss on a subject that should be called by its rightful name, for slavery is what it is. This mushing together of these terms is one of the very few criticisms I have of Victor Malarek’s excellent book—a work that I hope will not only be widely read, but which will spur “born again” politicians to effectively deal with this great evil.
To all the Natashas, I send my holiday greeting and the hope that your liberation will be a star to illumine this season and our lives.
Other Articles by Dan Raphael