The Hidden Side of Human Trafficking: Grooming and Brainwashing Unsuspecting Victims

Courtney Litvak was a normal teenager who went to an upscale suburban high school in Katy, Texas. It was during this time that the unthinkable happened—she was pulled into the dark world of human trafficking.

When people imagine this issue, it’s easy to recount stories of victims who are violently snatched off the street and thrown into a vehicle that speeds off into the night.

But, there’s a less-discussed, more subtle, and more sinister method by which traffickers obtain their victims—they befriend them and coerce them into selling their own bodies.

“Contrary to some misconceptions, human trafficking crimes do not require any smuggling or movement of the victim,” the U.S. Department of Justice states. “The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological, but it must be used to coerce a victim into performing labor, services, or commercial sex acts.”

Litvak was one such victim. She was coaxed into trafficking through a process called “grooming.”

“First it’s establishing, most of the time, the relationship over [the] phone and you’re going to grow to trust this person enough to where you’ll allow them to pick you up at night, you will sneak out; this was something that took place in my personal story,” Litvak told The Epoch Times in an interview in which she described the early stages of her grooming process.

Human trafficking victims often know the person luring them into this malevolent practice. Similar to other forms of abuse, traffickers exploit the trust that victims have established with them over long periods of time.

“I began sneaking out at night and this was somebody who knew a mutual friend of a mutual friend. So, typically somebody who you sit next to in one of your classes, somebody who you’ve known since junior high, a familiar face, somebody who you’ve heard their name before—that establishes credibility to make you more willing to trust this person. … It is very well organized and it’s very well networked; it is never a one-man show,” Litvak said.

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