He’s handsome. He’s charming. He’s everything you never even dreamed you could have. He buys you nice things and cares for you in ways nobody else ever has. He pays a lot of attention to you, and it may be a little overbearing at times but he cares and that’s what matters. He’s a little secretive, but he is present when he talks to you and that’s not very common anymore, so it’s fine. He offers you love and attention you can’t get anywhere else, and when the world seems against you he’s right there to help
Oh and by the way, he’s a trafficker.
It’s the biggest, and perhaps the most manipulative, technique the trafficking industry uses to prey on its victims. Often aimed at young children or women who are down on their luck, this tactic uses deception and manipulation to fool victims into feeling loved, cherished, and appreciated to only find themselves in a world they never expected to be a part of.
So, what is the loverboy tactic, and why do victims believe it?
A “loverboy” or “Romeo pimp” is someone who uses coercion through the form of seduction or friendship in order to force women or children into the sex industry. They may place themselves directly in a victim’s life or indirectly over social media and dating sites. They pretend to show affection to victims, and often try to offer something the victim feels like they are lacking in their lives.
For example, a teen girl who is frequently ignored by her parents, feels isolated, and craves love may post on her instagram how upset she is with her parents. A loverboy would see this post, recognize the vulnerability of her desperation for love, and contact her to “hang out.” He would then get to know her, get her to open up to him, and potentially give her gifts to make her feel special.
After gaining trust, a loverboy trafficker will begin to isolate a victim from family and friends, sometimes convincing them to move to a city they don’t know well and have no community in. Sometimes, they even convince them to move to a place where they don’t speak the language, making it that much harder to get help.
Once this isolation occurs, the trafficker then begins to force the victim into prostitution through physical and/or psychological abuse. They often deceive victims by claiming they owe them money for travel, lodging, and other gifts they may have given.
This tactic is so effective because it exploits the vulnerabilities of victims. When you are deceived, you can’t see the underlying realities of any situation. That is why it is the number one tactic traffickers use to obtain victims.
A few good resources if you would like to know more:
This article explains some of the ways we can address and improve this problem.
This video by Rebecca Bender that tells of her experience.
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