Cover image screenshot credit to YouTube.com/RT. 3-minute read.
Tahir Mehmood is the hero of the hour after his quick response to call the police and rescue a woman from her sex trafficker.
Watch the moment that police arrived and saved this woman from being further exploited.
Here’s what happened
Romanian national Robert Enescu is a 28-year-old trafficker who put the woman in Mehmood’s taxi in Coventry, England. Once the woman and Mehmood were alone, she began crying.
Only a couple of days earlier, the Romanian woman arrived in the UK. She had answered an online job advertisement to move to the country and work as a massage therapist, but upon arrival, she was met with a terrible reality. Police later reported that the woman was three months pregnant and kept in a locked room in northern London with no food or heating, only a mattress and a bucket as a toilet.
Later, the woman was transferred to Coventry where it was clear Enescu intended to sex traffic her. In preparation, she was forced to wear lingerie and pose for pictures that were then shared with adult websites.
In the cab, Mehmood asked why the woman was crying. She eventually told the taxi driver that Enescu said she would be forced to sell sex. She admitted to Mehmood that she did not want to do it. Mehmood promised the woman the authorities would help her and called the police. When they arrived, they discovered the address her trafficker instructed Mehmood to drive the woman to was a brothel, and he had sent her away with a bag of 50 condoms.
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The day after Mehmood’s rescue call, the police raided the brothel and found several Eastern European women who may have also been sex trafficking victims.
Enescu was arrested and found guilty of sex trafficking and sentenced to nine years in jail for his crimes. He jumped bail, and the police are still reportedly searching for him.
How sex trafficking happens
Too often we only imagine one kind of sex trafficking scenario: dramatic and cinematic, playing out like a Hollywood film, girls are kidnapped from their homes and flown across the world to be sold for sex in a distant land. There are, of course, horrible stories of children kidnapped and sold into sex slavery, but to exclusively imagine this scenario is to ignore the daily realities of sex trafficking that happens more often.
Related: By The Numbers: Is The Porn Industry Connected To Sex Trafficking?
Sex trafficking is an unfortunate issue all over the world. It is often the result of poverty and lack of opportunity, where vulnerable people have little choice of employment to feed themselves or their families, thus making them targets for predatory traffickers. Sometimes young girls are tricked through the “boyfriend” method, where a girl is groomed to believe she is in a trusting relationship until she’s sold.
Then there are similar tactics like this Romanian woman’s story. In the past few years, the European Union has experienced huge growth in the illegal sex trafficking trade. This is not something anyone wants to be known for, and so Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, is fighting back.
But just think of it. This woman’s nightmare came about simply by looking for a job.
The link between sex trafficking and porn
Maybe you aren’t in an activist’s role fighting sex trafficking at the front lines. Maybe you are more like Mehmood and can keep your eyes and ears open when it is most needed. Or maybe neither of those situations will ever be your story. That’s okay, there is still a way to join the fight.
Raising awareness about sex trafficking and recognizing the links between the sex trade and online pornography are important messages to share, and the truth is pornography fuels the existing worldwide issue of sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking shares a variety of symbiotic connections to pornography. Even in the production of mainstream porn, sex trafficking can still occur—and it happens more often than most people think.
Amended and reauthorized most recently in 2017, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines sex trafficking as a situation in which “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(a), 114 Stat. 1464. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-106hr3244enr/pdf/BILLS-106hr3244enr.pdfCopy Trafficking victims protection reauthorization act of 2017, (2017). Retrieved from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-115s1862enr/pdf/BILLS-115s1862enr.pdfCopy And force, fraud, and coercion happens regularly in the porn industry, both mainstream and non-mainstream.
Related: How OnlyFans Reportedly Facilitates And Profits From Child Sex Trafficking
For example, consider the producers of GirlsDoPorn—a wildly popular porn production company which garnered well over a billion views,Plaintiffs' trial brief (2019). Retrieved from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6476547-Plaintiffs-Trial-Brief.htmlCopy ranking around the 20th most popular channel on Pornhub,Cole, S., & Maiberg, E. (2019). How pornhub enables doxing and harassment. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/mb8zjn/pornhub-doxing-and-harassment-girls-do-porn-lawsuitCopy and reportedly generating an estimated $17 million dollars in revenue.Shammas, B. (2019). The men behind GirlsDoPorn lured young women with modeling jobs, then tricked them into porn, FBI says. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/16/men-behind-girlsdoporn-lured-young-women-with-modeling-jobs-then-tricked-them-into-porn-fbi-says/Copy . GirlsDoPorn producers intentionally misrepresented themselves as agents looking for young models, used fraudulent contracts as leverage to force the girls into performing in porn, and lied that the footage would never be published online.Fight the New Drug. (2021). “I Didn’t know if they’d kill me”: What happened when this Jane Doe was trafficked by GirlsDoPorn. Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/what-happened-when-this-jane-doe-was-trafficked-by-girlsdoporn/Copy That qualifies as sex trafficking by fraud.
Similarly, it was recently uncovered that the Czech Casting porn production company—which is run by the largest producer of pornography in the Czech Republic—had been trafficking young women into porn production by luring them with the promise of a high-paying modeling job.Prague Morning. (2020). Czech casting: Women lured by modeling gigs, manipulated into shooting porn. Retrieved from https://praguemorning.cz/czech-casting-women-lured-by-modeling-gigs-manipulated-into-porn/Copy Blažek, V. (2020). Policie zakročila v největší české pornofirmě. devět lidí je ve vazbě. Retrieved from https://www.seznamzpravy.cz/clanek/policie-zakrocila-v-nejvetsi-ceske-pornofirme-devet-lidi-je-ve-vazbe-112697Copy Similar to the GirlsDoPorn case, when the women arrived on set for their “modeling” gigs, they were tricked into signing contracts they weren’t given time to read or understand.Cole, S., Maiberg, E. & Koslerova, A. (2020). 'Frankenstein's monster:' images of sexual abuse are fueling algorithmic porn. Vice. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdgnp/sexual-abuse-fueling-ai-porn-deepfake-czech-casting-girls-do-pornCopy Those contracts were then used as leverage to induce the women into being filmed for porn.Blažek, V. (2020). Policie zakročila v největší české pornofirmě. devět lidí je ve vazbě. Retrieved from https://www.seznamzpravy.cz/clanek/policie-zakrocila-v-nejvetsi-ceske-pornofirme-devet-lidi-je-ve-vazbe-112697Copy
Unfortunately, these aren’t isolated incidents.
Related: How the Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content and Abuse
There are countless examples of victims being tricked into porn including; when a man in Florida secretly filmed men he had sex with and sold the videos to porn sites;The United States Department of Justice. (2018). Florida man sentenced to three years in prison for surreptitiously producing and distributing pornographic audio and video recordings of himself engaged in sexual activity with at least 80 others. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/florida-man-sentenced-three-years-prison-surreptitiously-producing-and-distributingCopy the growing number of women tricked into participating in Japan’s multi-billion-dollar porn industry;The Star. (2016). Tricked into porn: Japanese actresses step out of the shadows. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2016/10/05/tricked-into-porn/Copy or the long list of vulnerable teens and young people who are recruited to be “models” then coerced into porn.
Many pro-porn advocates who recognize the harms and damages of the mainstream porn industry and mainstream sites now advocate for porn consumers to get their content from alternative sites that put more control in content creators’ hands. Yet while sites like OnlyFans may take more precautions than more mainstream sites, they are still not exempt from these issues.
Despite being advertised as an ethical alternative to porn tube sites, OnlyFans has also been found to host child sexual abuse material and nonconsensual content.Titheradge, N., & Croxford, R. (2021). The children selling explicit videos on OnlyFans. BBC News Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-57255983Copy OnlyFans claims to have a robust system for preventing sex trafficking and abusive content, including systems to verify content creators’ ages, yet an investigation by the BBC reveals that OnlyFans’ age verification process has not been able to efficiently prevent child pornography from being uploaded to the site.de Gallier, T. (2020). The hidden danger of selling nudes online. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/5e7dad06-c48d-4509-b3e4-6a7a2783ce30Copy Many underage creators have been found to use fake identification to create an account on OnlyFans, with one 14-year-old even using her grandmother’s passport.Titheradge, N., & Croxford, R. (2021). The children selling explicit videos on OnlyFans. BBC News Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-57255983Copy
And regardless, OnlyFans does not require uploaders to verify the age or consent of all participants—only the account owner—which means that nonconsensual content can be easily uploaded to the platform.OnlyFans. Account approval/account application requirements. Retrieved from https://onlyfans.com/help/3/18/73Copy
Related: What Causes People To Choose To Go Into The Porn Industry?
Of course, we are not claiming that all porn is nonconsensual, rather, we’re raising awareness on the unfortunate reality of the porn industry—that there is often no way to tell whether the porn a consumer views is completely consensual or if it was produced with coercion.
The bottom line is this: pornography is the material means of sexual exploitation. It is the proof, the very evidence that commercial sexual exploitation occurred. And it is used again and again to promote the abuse of victims of sex trafficking.
Join us in stopping the demand and fighting back against sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.