Young Black princess wanted by sugar dad tonight–(Los Angeles)
Need a regular fix of chocolate (serious)–(Hollywood Hills)
Cocoa, Mocha, or Caramel, Please–(San Fernando Valley)–recent classified ads found on Craigslist
Prostitution is often categorized as being one of the “victimless crimes,” which may be loosely construed as an arrangement between two or more people to engage in behaviors that don’t impact anyone else.
In reality, this is hardly the case, as the residual effects result in financial burdens on society in the form of the judicial costs necessary to prosecute and incarcerate the offenders, medical expenses for addressing and impeding the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and the drain on the social services community as it confronts the daunting task of rehabilitation.
None of this even begins to cover the injury to the psyche of sex workers directly engaged in this activity, who are typically categorized as criminal offenders, even though most of them are well below the age of consent when they begin to engage in this sordid business.
“The brain does not develop fully until age 24, so if it develops in a life of debauchery, violence and otherwise what will the outcome of that persons behavior be and how will their lives be affected.” –Brook Bello
Adolescence is a time of defiance and experimentation, discovery and rebellion, of testing boundaries and pushing limits. Youngsters growing up within the framework of dysfunctional family units, which are rapidly becoming the staple of contemporary society, are an attractive target for the voracious predator, who can spot their quarry with the practiced eye of a carnivore in the midst of the African veldt.
No formal textbook may be found on this ancient art of coercion, deception, force, and seduction, but the street itself is a well-established depository of an oral tradition containing a methodology of selecting candidates, typically with poor self-esteem, then beginning the process of “grooming,” “seasoning,” or simply “breaking bitches” before “turning them out” to work on the “stroll” or “tract” (vernacular for the circuit in which sex workers operate).
Brook Bello’s dysfunctional childhood made her ripe for the advances–in this case, of a woman at a strip mall in Las Vegas. Through casual conversation, the well-dressed thirtysomething pinpointed the teenager’s longing for affirmation, identity and love. Gaining a position of trust, she plied impressionable young Bello with alcohol and Quaalude pills–also known as “Lemmon 714s,” for the name of the pharmaceutical company scored on the sides of the tablets–before introducing her to the world of escort services.
“The problem was, as an adult I liked men naturally and I was only with women out of my deep fear of men because of the extreme abuse, and that is hardly a reason to choose that lifestyle.” —
from Brook Bello’s website/blog “Living above the noise” (http://aftersexslaveryandabuse.blogspot.com/)
The sex-for-hire industry became the center of Bello’s life from her mid-teens onward for more than a decade. She ran away from home and meandered back and forth from Vegas, to Los Angeles, to New York, and places in between.
“I was gay for a long time, but I was never attracted to women, never ever!” she remembers.
Eventually, reprieve came in the form of outside intervention, when the neighbors of the upscale community in which she and the other workers resided began to complain about the strange goings-on at the house in which they plied their trade. Mounting outside pressure forced the operation to fold, and both proprietors and merchandise had to vacate the premises.
Being uprooted from this environment proved to be a blessing in disguise, as Bello took off again for Los Angeles, this time finding the recovery that she’d longed for.
But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.
Healing involved a transformed lifestyle as well as securing appropriate employment. Surviving with dignity meant developing skills in cosmetology and waitressing to provide clothing, food, shelter and the other niceties of daily living. Regaining emotional and mental health required spiritual renewal by way of Pastor Beverly “Bam” Crawford, D.D., of the Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church in Inglewood. Crawford’s message of “restoration of the damaged soul” held special resonance for Bello, who considers her years in the sex trade as a form of “soul assassination.”
Bello found positive guidance through mentors like Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight, and began taking acting classes as a foundation for what would become a successful film career with appearances in several television series, including “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.,” “JAG,” “Stargate SGI,” and the feature motion picture “Strange Days,” directed by Academy Award-winner Katherine Bigelow.
Publication of a book of poetry added the title of author to her resume and furthered the healing process, but Bello remained haunted by the specter of her past, which partially manifested itself in her difficulty forming interpersonal relationships due to trust issues. She made a gigantic step forward when she came to the realization that part of the healing process was “not to be so self-focused.” Recognizing that she was not alone in either her past exploitation or her on-going recovery, she took the next step in her therapeutic recovery, honing her skills as a filmmaker, by writing and directing a documentary titled “Survivor: living above the noise.”
The 80-minute film covers her past trauma, and her interactions with others while struggling to get on with her life. In an effort to connect with different cultures to better understand her own plight, she traveled to the Middle East, where she encountered folk from different backgrounds also shackled by the chains of bondage in one form or the other. One of the most poignant moments occurred when she participated in a friend’s clandestine baptism on the shores of the Persian Gulf. She moved on to the nation of Bahrain, an oil-rich kingdom with the reputation of being the fastest growing economy in the Arab world, where the wealthy can indulge in hedonist excesses in relative freedom from the dictates of the Muslim doctrine that dominate that part of the world.
To facilitate the transformation of the desert empire into a jet-set gathering spot, Bahrain relies on scores of guest workers from such locales as India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka to erect the shining architecture that graces the increasingly cosmopolitan country, accompanied by allegations of human rights violations, both for employed visitors, and native-born political dissenters.
As in many Islamic countries, the question of women’s rights is a hot-button topic, and although prostitution is strictly forbidden by Islamic law, Bahrain is alleged to be a prime destination for Middle Eastern sex trafficking, and is often called “the brothel of the Gulf.”
Initially conceived as a labor of love, her documentary earned her yet another accolade when it was selected to be a last-minute addition to the prestigious 2012 Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera. Anyone interested in “Survivor: living above the noise,” or getting involved in the movement to prevent human trafficking may access the website www.abovethenoisethefilm.info.
Bello also maintains another website at www.aftersexslaveryandabuse.blogspot.com, geared towards motivating anyone embarking on the journey of deliverance from the myriad forms of mental and physical bondage.
The next project on her agenda is the establishment of a nonprofit organization, along with a transitional housing center, to provide other female survivors with, as her website puts it, “a safe place to heal.” Even more important than the physical sanctuary it will afford are the healing seminars, life-skills classes, and other rehabilitation components of the therapeutic programs she is planning.
“I hope that people will understand that just because someone is out of the clutches or acts of sex-slavery physically, the journey to wholeness is psychological,” Bello says. Removing the victim from an oppressive environment is only one step on the road to wellness. True rehabilitation, she continues, “takes time and patience to heal and then discover.”
Well what do ya know, D-O-double-G
Major pimpin, out in D.C.
And I’m a young pimp, got a lot of growin left
And you’s a young hoe with a lot of hoein left
–from “A Bitch I Knew” by Snoop Dogg
For generations, the pimp, along with other criminal figures, has been an anti-hero championed for rebelling against the tyranny of an oppressive establishment. The status of this dubious role model has, alas, been enhanced by the mushrooming popularity of Hip Hop and Rap music. The corrosive influence of a misogynistic art form, which promotes the degradation and exploitation of females, is surely a scourge on the social order with possibly long-term negative effects.
On June 13, Bello screened “Survivor: living above the noise,” before a select crowd at Culver City’s Mayme Clayton Library. During the following panel discussion, facilitated by law-enforcement officials, social services, and private nonprofit organizations, the emerging practice of utilizing sex trafficking as a source of income by area street gangs was mentioned.
The transition from traditional gang activities like narcotic distribution to flesh peddling is logical, and sound from a business point of view: there is less likelihood of arrest, and even if one is “pinched,” the sentences are much less severe. Instead of funneling the profits from sales into buying more product, the trafficker merely sends his “product” back out into the streets to generate more revenue.
A street walker is repetitively “rented” instead of being sold in one single transaction, and the penalty for selling a “dove,” or $20 worth of dope, is much greater than the sale of a human being. To the larcenous entrepreneur, the sex trade is the new crack.
Criminal enterprise, like virtually every method of marketable exchange, has been transformed by the advent of the Internet, and carnal commerce is no exception. The online community simultaneously made solicitation easier for buyer and seller, while providing a geographical buffer to intervention by law enforcement. In 2010, the advertising giant Craigslist caved into public criticism by shutting down its erotic service section (said to have generated some $40 million-plus per year), but scores of others, including Backpage, Eros-Guide, MyRedBook, and Naughty Reviews have sprung up, or were already in place to take up the slack and, of course, enjoy the increased business and income created by the void left by the demise of Craigslist.
On March 12, in faraway Fairfax County, Virginia, hooligans from an offshoot of one of Southern California’s most notorious exports, the “Underground Gangster Crips” (UGC) were busted for recruiting high school girls still living under their parents’ roofs to provide sex for hire. The gangsters allegedly used the social networking service “FaceBook” to recruit potential additions to their stable, and to troll for johns, or customers.
In nearby Falls Church, a high-ranking member of another local export, the legendary Salvadoran gang “Mara Salvatrucha,” or MS-13, was sentenced to 50 years of prison time for prostituting teenage girls to Hispanic day laborers outside retail stores like 7-Elevens and Home Depots.
Closer to home, 22-year-old pimp Calvin Sneed was shot to death in San Francisco, during the early morning hours of June 4, allegedly by the parents of a 17-year-old runaway he’d been trafficking throughout Southern California. Sneed, who police suspect was affiliated with the “Nutty Blocc Crips” of Compton, had been the subject of another failed shooting in North Hollywood on May 27. Supposedly the girl’s parents were frustrated in their attempts to sever their daughter’s ties to Sneed, who’d promoted her services in classified ads for escort services.
Even cyber-aficionados too timid to engage in actual sex-for-pay, can indulge their fantasies in sexually-oriented role play at places like “Second Life: Jail Bait,” where participants may engage in virtual scenarios involving under-aged girls.
For generations, American schoolchildren have been taught that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1865. Today, slavery continues, in myriad forms. Legislation to address present-day bondage in all its contemporary manifestations is slowly gaining momentum, starting with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, up to the passage within the last few months by state Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of Senate Bill 1133 (making a felony of human trafficking), and Assembly Bill 2466 (mandating that trafficking victims receive restitution).
As the media glorification of commercial sex grows, however, be it the cable TV comedy “Hung,” the reality TV show “Gigolos,” or major motion pictures ala “Hustle and Flow,” it sanitizes the notion of sex for hire in the collective mindset, ensuring that the proclivity for treating women and children as carnal commodities will continue both within the realm of deviant society, as well as those considered “normal.”