It is a tale as old as time: the weak, vulnerable, damsel in distress, vs. the raging, relentless, violent bad guy. Women are the ‘goodies’ who are only subject to abuse and never perpetrate it, whilst men are the ‘baddies’ who turn to violence at every opportunity. Is this victim/perpetrator dichotomy accurate? Is it really that simple? 

It is common that service users who initially engage with Encompass as survivors of sex trafficking, at some stage become perpetrators of other women, whilst remaining victims to sex trafficking themselves. To survive in the world of sex trafficking, and to reduce (not eliminate) the suffering and abuse sustained personally, a woman being sex trafficked will perpetrate others. Women who have been sex trafficked will prey on often younger women with noticeable vulnerabilities such as substance addictions, homelessness, poor mental health and learning difficulties. Survivors have learned this behaviour from their own perpetrators who preyed on them for the same things.  

Thus, it must be recognised that more often than not in the world of sex trafficking, men perpetrate violence and exploitation against women. However, this is not always the case. Men who are deemed perpetrators can equally be victims, often surviving trauma from current or historic abuse.  

Through frontline mentoring of men, Flint has heard evidence to support that the time spent in the actual provision of paid sexual activity varies between five and ten minutes, but male clients often purchase much longer periods of time for the purpose of conversation and ‘relational intimacy’ with an exploited woman who is willing to listen, empathise and converse as part of the service she offers.  

This desperate need for closeness and relational intimacy is indicative of a lack of these qualities in their lives, which are often accompanied by a deep sense of shame, failure, isolation, and hopelessness. The lack in these areas alongside these emotions are often a factor in men purchasing sex and perpetuating sex trafficking. 

Furthermore, all forms of violence, whether sexual, physical, or emotional, are a learned behaviour. Whether a man learns violence from watching pornography or through witnessing violence in the family home, they have been exposed to something that is damaging. They may have observed the violence or been subject to it themselves as children or as adults. 

A quote from a man who completed the Flint mentoring program: “I did genuinely want to change, I wanted to be happier…it’s just that I didn’t know how…Eventually, I stopped visiting brothels, and even porn sites too. I started to face up more to the difficulties and challenges in my life.”  

This quote supports that the exploitation of women and purchasing of sexual services is not the root of the problem for men, but the fruit. The fruit, or presenting behaviours, evidenced by self-destructive sexuality are inevitably rooted in past hurts, traumas or attachment issues that grip the mind, will, emotions and conscience in a seemingly intractable physiological, psychological and spiritual bondage. Any deep sense and cycle of shame, failure, isolation and hopelessness (the roots) must be broken before presenting behaviours can be effectively and permanently changed. 

Flint is here to help you do just that: 

In Azalea’s frontline training, the Drama Triangle by Stephen Karpman is referenced in order to help unpick the complexities of the dynamics between what he calls: the victim, the rescuer and the persecutor. Most of us are neurologically programmed to play these three roles, and we consciously or unconsciously choose one role given the particular context. It is never the case that a person is one or the other all of the time. Someone who is a victim, can transition into a persecutor, and vice versa. Azalea sees this in Encompass and in Flint and teaches frontline volunteers to acknowledge these social dynamics. 

Come and join us at the frontline volunteer training in Autumn to learn more!

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