#StopTheDemandHuman trafficking isn't only a third-world issue or a dramatic film plot. Sex trafficking is a global epidemic that affects 4.5 million men, women, and children everywhere—it can happen across the world or in your own backyard. #StopTheDemand shines a light on the victims and survivors of sex trafficking while raising awareness about one of the main sources that drives the demand for sexual exploitation in the first place: pornography. Join us in fighting exploitation and supporting survivors.

The porn industry has no boundaries when it comes to who they’ll exploit or dehumanize. In fact, if something is considered taboo—incest, rape, child abuse—they’re all the more likely to exploit and sell it as a sexual fantasy.

It isn’t news that pornographers prey on “plots” involving vulnerable people, selling it as sexual fantasy at the expense of those exploited and the consumer. Increasingly, producers have targeted one of the most vulnerable groups of people in society—the millions of displaced refugees worldwide.

The global refugee crisis and sexual exploitation

Here’s some background on a complicated issue that’s impacting our world today.

At the end of 2016, there were 65.5 million people forcibly displaced from their countries worldwide. As of 2017, the global number of refugees stood at a staggering 22.5 million. Roughly 55% of these refugees come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.

Many countries open their borders to refugees, with the top 10 host countries including Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, and others. Germany is the only European country in the top 10, taking in nearly 700,000 refugees in 2016 alone.

Related: This Disturbing Porn Site Fantasizes The Real Rape Problem Among Central American Migrants

As they cross borders seeking safety, many refugees are sexually exploited and trafficked. Often, traffickers and smugglers promise to provide for their needs and offer safe passage into these countries in return for payment. Because many refugees can’t speak the local language, lack proper documentation, and are desperately trying to survive, they don’t see any other option. Their oppressors frequently use physical and sexual abuse to demand more money than originally agreed upon, and their abuse is often recorded and distributed as porn.

Unicef recently conducted a series of interviews with unaccompanied minor refugees. Their report confirmed that many refugees, especially children, are ill-informed about their legal rights to protection and even fear engaging with authorities due to a lack of trust. They perceive smugglers and traffickers as their only form of protection as they attempt to enter a new country alone.

Sexually exploitive situations with vulnerable people

At the highest risk of sexual exploitation are migrant children traveling alone. Over half of the refugee population are children and the number of unaccompanied refugee children has increased significantly in recent years. Many are left exposed to exploitation and sexual abuse by traffickers.

According to a Unicef report released in May of 2017, there has been a fivefold increase in the amount of refugee children traveling alone since 2010, with a minimum of 300,000 recorded in 80 countries between 2015-2016.

Many children are forced to sell their bodies for sex in order to fund their journeys and pay smugglers to help them reach their destinations. Traffickers often help them cross borders only to sell them into forced prostitution and slavery.

Another group especially susceptible to targeting by traffickers are women traveling alone—some single, some with children, and many pregnant. A large portion of these women run female-headed households and struggle to feed themselves and their families. They are often the victims of gender-based violence, forced to perform sex acts in order to receive pay and food to survive, and often brutally raped.

RelatedThe Connection Between Violent Porn And Domestic Violence In Bolivia

It’s important to remember that men and boys can also be sex trafficking victims. They are no exception, with many male refugees being forced to perform sexual acts in order to be paid for their work. The UN Refugee Agency conducted a study in late 2016 where roughly 196 refugees in Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan revealed shocking accounts of what they had experienced. Many refugee boys endure sexual violence and blackmailing by males in their new countries and by other refugees.

Ibrahim, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, told this heartbreaking story: “My friend works with a 60-year-old man who refuses to give him wages until he does a sexual favour… My friend cannot leave the job because he needs it for rent and to support his family. He is 30 years old, married and has a family, but he cannot talk to them about this.”

Porn makes fantasy out of these real nightmares

Regardless of where anyone stands when it comes to the global refugee crisis, the abuse that many refugees endure is unacceptable. And—you guessed it—the porn industry makes sure to capitalize on these heartbreaking and exploitative situations and sell it as graphic fantasy.

Don’t believe us? One of the most popular porn sites doesn’t just have a few videos, but an entire section dedicated to “Syrian Refugee Porn,” which is not exactly surprising given that nearly 13 million Syrians have fled their homes since 2011.

Here are a few real storylines from some of the most popular porn sites:

“Muslim refugee beautiful pregnant mom f— by white guy…”

“Afghan refugee f—ing for money…”

“Poor Arab refugee girl picked up from the side of the road. Lured into the car for a ride. Exploited as an easy piece of f— meat…”

“This beautiful Arab refugee knocked for some money and food. She came in and offered her p— for to f— and asked for some food to eat…”

The worst part is that these storylines fetishize real life situations, as we explained above.

Exploiting the real-life tragedies of those who can’t speak for themselves and reinforcing it as fantasy is in character for the porn industry. This isn’t unique, but that doesn’t make it any less concerning.

Porn normalizes abuse and violence

Porn depicting their abuse is fantasized as harmless fun for the consumer and “empowerment” for refugees seeking work to support themselves and their families. Can you see how these attitudes and behaviors are dangerous to our society?

Research shows that exposure to pornography can make consumers less compassionate toward victims of sexual violence and exploitation [1], and that when someone is objectified, it becomes easier to commit violence against them. Porn can lead the consumer to see what they’re watching as more common than it really is and inspire them to act out what they’ve watched on a screen.

Related: By The Numbers: How Porn And Sex Trafficking Are Closely Connected

We want to be clear: we don’t claim that everyone who watches porn will act out what they see on real people. Even so, we cannot ignore the research that does show how porn consumption is an escalating behavior. Over time, consumers become desensitized to what they see and seek out more extreme content in order to get the same rush. In some situations, consumers experience an inability to be satisfied by consuming alone, and can try to mimic what they’ve seen on screen in real life.

Now, if there is even a slight possibility of adapting harmful attitudes toward real people, and in some cases, acting upon those attitudes, is it really worth the risk?

Growing demand for refugee porn in Germany and worldwide

With the influx of refugees entering their country, it’s concerning, although not surprising, that Germany has seen a huge spike in the demand for pornography depicting the exploitation of refugees.

But this isn’t just a growing trend in Germany. In fact, Google searches for “refugee porn” skyrocketed everywhere in the last year.

To give you an idea, Google reports numbers that represent search interest relative to the highest point on a chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term.

Search term “refugee porn” worldwide in the last 12 months

As you can see, in April, there was a sharp spike in the search term “refugee porn.” The United States was among the top 20 countries listed under interest by region. How is this acceptable?

Why this matters, and what we can do

Consider how footage of the abuse of sex trafficking victims is mingled among porn made of allegedly “consenting” performers on popular porn sites, and there’s truly no way to tell the difference between true exploitation and scripted violent fantasy.

This is just one way that porn and sex trafficking are connected.

Porn also fuels the demand for sex trafficking and further reinforces the harmful idea that people are only as valuable as what their bodies can be used for.

Related: Uncovering The Silent Sex Trafficking Epidemic In New York City

Regardless of where someone stands on dividing political issues, we can all agree that people do not deserve to be abused, and that it is unacceptable for the most vulnerable individuals in society to be exploited for “entertainment.”

The truth is, porn glamorizing the abuse and exploitation of refugees wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a demand for it. Every view, click, and download fuels the demand for the continued production of violent porn and reinforces attitudes and behaviors of degradation and objectification. Supporting the industry further perpetuates abuse and will continue to drive pornographers to create content that exploits and fantasizes abusive situations.

We can fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Refuse to click. Together, we can help stop the demand.

Get Involved

If you’re interested in working directly with sex trafficking survivors, HELP International and FTND are offering an all-expense paid volunteer trip to Nepal to the grand-prize winner of our #StopTheDemand campaign. Our Co-Founder and President Clay Olsen is volunteering at the Nepal Shelter in June, and the #StopTheDemand campaign winner will work alongside our Executive Director Natale McAneney during the 11-day August volunteer trip being given away.

Spark Conversations

This movement is all about changing the conversation about pornography and stopping the demand for sexual exploitation. When you rep a tee, you can spark meaningful conversation on porn’s harms and inspire lasting change in individuals’ lives, and our world. Are you in? Check out all our styles in our online store, or click below to shop:

Citations

[1] Zillmann And Bryant, “Effects Of Massive Exposure To Pornography” In Pornography And Sexual Aggression, Eds. Neil M. Malamuth And Edward Donerstein (New York: Academic Press, 1984 And J. V. P. Check And T. H. Guloien, “The Effects Of Repeated Exposure To Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, And Erotica,” In Pornography: Recent Research, Interpretations, And Policy Considerations, Eds. D. Zillmann And J. Bryant (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1989)

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