When Sex Trafficking Is Right Under Our Nose {An Interview}

Sex trafficking awareness. Interview with Daniel Lemke. Red flags, pimps, porn and what we can do about it.

Daniel Lemke biked 12,608 miles in 15 months to raise awareness about human trafficking. I interviewed him in Colorado in September of 2016, just a couple months after he completed his tour around the perimeter of the United States.

As January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and Daniel recently published a book about his experience, called Kissing Lions, I wanted to share this interview with you. I’ll be sharing additional resources this month as well. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and is happening right under our noses.

Me: What are some things you have learned about sex trafficking over the past 15 months?

Daniel: Most victims are runaways or from the foster care system. In fact, 1 out of 3 runaways will be trafficked. [According to heatwatch.org, two in every three kids will be approached by an exploiter within 48 hours of running away from home.]

This is some of the slang and vocabulary associated with sex trafficking I learned:

Survivors of sex trafficking are called “sparrow.”

Victims are a “commodity,” “item,” “product,” or “the bottom bitch.” From the outside we see them as a prostitute, stripper, and/or pornstar.

A pimp (male) or madam (female) are the “care providers,” “boyfriend,” “captor,” or “sugar daddy.”

The second in command, who will recruit and basically do anything for the pimp, is called “the Bottom Bitch.”

A gentlemen or “good guy pimp” is called a “Romeo Pimp.”

An aggressive or abusive pimp (like in the movie Taken) is called a “Gorilla pimp.”

A John is the client.

Me: What are some red flags to look for?

Daniel: I’ll give you an example. I had an experience during an open mic night at a café in western Colorado. The barrista knew nothing about the menu and the woman in charge, the “boss lady,” was constantly looking over her shoulder and had shifty eyes when a man would come in.

At one point, a man in a suit entered, acting like he owned the place. Pulling the boss lady aside, he kissed her and held her arm. I overheard him call the women “baby girl,” and his demeanor shifted as he chatted with the men around the room. The waitresses were flirty with the male customers, and were very good at flirting.

So all these signs made me suspicious: not knowing the menu, the manager being pulled aside, the charming gentleman addressing all the men, and the flirty women.

Nail salons and massage parlors are also often covers for sex trafficking. Usually if it has the word “lily,” it can be a code word.

Me: How does the customer find the place?

Daniel: Numbers on bathroom stalls and ads in newspapers can all be codes. Craigslist or backpages.com have entire sections dedicated to adult services.

Me: What are some signs that a child is being trafficked?

Daniel: Pay attention to who they are with and where they are they looking. Are they cowering? You should look for markings, bruising, tattoos behind the ear, on the chest, on other places you can’t see, or on the lip. They often won’t have any form of ID and will often be absent from school.

In my travels, I often used Couch Surfing to find places to stay. I once stayed with a pimp. I was able to ask him lots of questions. He told me the youngest kid he found was 16. He often found his victims by going to a mall or fair. He would walk up to a girl and compliment her and if she was confident, he didn’t even bother.

But if she was self-deprecating or seemed insecure, he would play into her emotions. He knew how to manipulate her so she would think he loved her. In fact, most victims usually refer to the pimp as their “boyfriend.”

Me: How did you know he was a pimp?

Daniel: As I entered his house, God immediately prompted me to get to the heart of things and be different. I’ve learned that if you don’t get to the heart of things within the first 30 minutes of meeting someone, you won’t.

“What is it that you do?” I asked him.

“I am an urge provider,” he said, kind of joking. “ I work in the exotic film business.”

I knew I couldn’t change his opinion, but needed to love him and show him Christ. He was extremely charming and even bought me an expensive steak dinner, and took me around town.

I learned a pimp makes an average of 200,000-400,000 dollars a year.
This guy would charge between $50 and $100 a girl per time for three to eight times a day. Most pimps will have multiple girls, or boys. That income is all untaxed.

It’s really hard to convict a pimp. The police needs hard evidence and the pimp knows how to avoid getting caught.

Me: What’s the role of pornography in sex trafficking?

Daniel: Pornography increases the demand for sex trafficking. Pimps sometimes have women do that first, then hold it over their heads.

I actually want to reach pimps. I want to convert pimps to legitimate business men and change their mentality. I want to get men on board in reaching them. I want to demolish the demand because pornography can lead to sex trafficking.

Me: How is this problem being addressed in the church and other communities?

Daniel: Not enough. I had a hard time getting churches to host me in my travels. Men’s groups need to talk more about pornography because there’s not much accountability. The pastors need to talk about what healthy love and sex is because otherwise our kids are getting it from the media. Also, many pastors don’t even address the men directly. Men like to fix things, so when they don’t see a way to fix it, they don’t even try. Of the organizations fighting sex trafficking I met with, probably 75% were headed up by women.

Me: What is the best way to see sex trafficking decrease in the U.S.?

Daniel: I fully believe that the only way to end sex trafficking is to have a firm and strong family dynamic. I think it needs to start with the man. Daughters need a strong father or she’ll go seek one out. Boys need to understand how to be a gentleman and a protector rather than a predator.

Me: How can the average person help?

Daniel: First is prayer. Second, people can help through finances and raising awareness. Restore One in North Carolina is one of the few organizations helping male victims of sex trafficking.

You need to talk and do. You could set up an awareness night at church and show a movie. One good one is a documentary called Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. There’s also a very accurate movie based on a true story called Eden. Hot Girls Wanted is a rough documentary that’s pretty poor quality about the porn industry, but it gets the idea across.

You can talk to legislators. Senators and house reps are actually really easy to get ahold of and then they’ll set you up with others. They need to figure out what laws are working and which ones aren’t. It’s different in every state.
You can go into your local police force and ask what you can help them with or partner with a local organization that is fighting sex trafficking.

Victims and pimps need counseling, a safe environment and reintegration into society.

William Wilberforce, an abolitionist, once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”


Resources Daniel Mentioned:

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls (documentary on the sex trafficking industry)
Eden (available with Amazon Prime)
Hot Girls Wanted (documentary about pornography)

You can buy Daniel’s book about this experience, called Kissing Lions , (in paperback, but also on Amazon kindle for just $4.99!) Listen to him talk about it on Youtube here.


Check back for more posts about sex trafficking awareness and raising strong girls during the month of January.

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(This post was edited at 1:14 pm on 1/10/18)

Sex trafficking awareness. Interview with Daniel Lemke about pimps, porn and the sex trafficking industry.

Day 30: Talking Race with my Southern Mama {31 Days of #WOKE}

Talking Race with my Southern Mama


My mother grew up running through the orange clay of Buford, Georgia, a small town northeast of Atlanta. Though I’ve heard stories about their beloved black maid, Sadie, her father’s house calls as the town doctor and her attending boarding school to avoid the chaos of integration, I wanted to know more. Especially now, as I’m discovering the cost of a whispered history. We sat in her home in the mountains of Colorado this afternoon and had a chat while the kids napped.

Me: Do you remember specific ways you saw segregation in Buford?

Most of the blacks lived on one side of the train tracks and the whites lived on the other. I really don’t remember seeing many black children. We all kept to ourselves and went to different schools on different sides of the city. My dad was a doctor and I remember there being separate waiting rooms for whites and “coloreds,” as we called African American people then. My dad’s nurse, Katie, was black, though, and she was a close friend of our family. I don’t think she had much education, but was trained by my grandfather, who was also a doctor.

I don’t remember much overt racism growing up, but I do remember it was illegal for African Americans to even go to the next county over, Forsyth [We stopped and looked up more information on this at this time and found this Fresh Air podcast about the racial cleansing that went on in Forsyth county in 1912.]. Once when we were driving through Forsyth with my dad’s black nurse, Katie, I remember she had to lie down on the floor of the car because it was illegal for her to even be in that county. She also came on vacation with us, which always felt a bit clandestine because it wasn’t like she could even eat in restaurants with us.

Me: What was the perception of Martin Luther King, Jr.? What do you remember hearing about him? How did you feel during the Civil Rights Movement?

It was a bad time. I can’t believe my mom even let us kids watch the news during that time. Although he was respected for his non-violent stance, I just remember my mom telling me that it wasn’t going to end well for Martin Luther King, Jr. because the cops certainly weren’t taking the same nonviolent stance. I didn’t do any marches at that time, but I did do a march later when we lived in Florida for MLK day to become a national holiday. I remember the private Christian school your brother went to for a while voted not to observe MLK day.

Me: Can you tell me more about your house help growing up?

So our main interaction with African Americans was through our maids. Sadie was our maid for 23 years and was like family to us. The day my father told us she had terminal pancreatic cancer was the only day I remember my father crying. We loved her.

She would come to our house every day from 9 AM to 5 PM except Wednesdays and Sundays. We all came home for lunch since our school and my dad’s office was so close and we’d have traditional southern food. When we ate, Sadie would sit in the kitchen just a few feet away while the rest of us ate at the huge round table. Sadie would also do our laundry, clean and come on Saturday mornings to make us pancakes. Since I had four sisters, I remember her chasing away neighbors who were bothering us with her broom. We always hated Wednesdays when Sadie had the day off because the house just felt emptier somehow.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized Sadie couldn’t read or write. I also eventually found out she had a daughter being raised by relatives in the north. Because she worked full-time with our family, she wasn’t able to take care of her daughter.

We went to Sadie’s funeral in the black church when she died. We were the only white people there and they had us sit in the front row.

My best friend growing up also had house help. Their family was even more well-off than ours, so they had a live-in upstairs and downstairs maid. And their maids wouldn’t just put the food on the table for them to eat family-style, but would serve them at every meal. They also had a chauffer.

My aunt and grandmother had house help, but they would mostly just clean for them, not cook for them like ours did for our family.

Me: Do you feel like the portrayal of house maids in the book and movie The Help was realistic?

Yes, it was. In that movie, the help wasn’t supposed to use the bathroom in the house. Our maids did use our bathroom, but my wealthy friend I was talking about had a separate bathroom in the garage. And your dad’s grandmother in Jackson, Mississippi, had a bathroom out in the shed for her house help.

Me: What do you remember about the schools being integrated?

It was my junior year of high school and instead of continuing  in the public schools, my mom decided to send me to a private boarding school. There was just a big fear that the schools would be violent when they went through the transition to integration. My sister who was five years younger than me did eventually attend the public schools and observed some violence, but it wasn’t as bad by the time she graduated. I don’t remember there even being many black people when I went to college at the University of Georgia, though I’m sure there were some.


Check back tomorrow for the last post in the series! (Woot!) I’ll be doing a bit of rehashing, reflecting and ruminating on how to move forward from here.

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Image: By Esther Bubley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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