Where You Rape A Lady And Go Free - Vegas Sex Industry

Suki Falconberg

Two dozen girls were picked up in a raid on a Las Vegas brothel last month. The customers present were questioned and released. This particular raid, the result of something called Operation Doll House, came after two years of investigation, and it yielded the arrest of about half a dozen exploiters with ties to Asia who had trafficked the girls in.

The first news article on this raid (in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 25, 2007) was entitled "Women Facing Deportation" and made it sound as if the girls were the criminals since they were in the US illegally. The second article (also in the Review-Journal, May 4, 2007) did an about face and said the girls would be eligible for "T" visas (ones available for trafficking victims) and they would receive help locally from the Salvation Army and WestCare, a facility with a newly established trafficking program.

The article mentioned the conditions the girls were found under: dirty mattresses on the floor, separated by sheets strung up; the rooms reeking of cigarettes and feces and urine; gallon containers of lube and hundreds of condoms in the brothel. While the brothel was running, neighbors reported seeing customers vomiting and urinating in the street before going in and they reported huge numbers of used condoms rolling down the street on trash days.

The article also, thankfully, pointed out the campaign of terror and physical and psychological abuse, not the least of which is the daily rape of their bodies, that girls who are trafficked endure.

These articles prompted a number of questions on my part. The biggest one: why were the customers not arrested for the ongoing rape of these girls' bodies? Were the girls put in jail cells right after the raid, further traumatizing their already shocked minds and bodies? If they are indeed the victims of this terrible rape of their bodies, why would anyone even consider putting them in a cell, or 'arresting' them, for even a moment?

Who termed this Operation Doll House? It makes the pathetic situation of these poor girls sound like a dirty joke at a bachelor party - as if a brothel were a place full of live dolls to play with. Another such operation in Las Vegas a number of years ago was called Operation Jade Blade, carrying sad, 'exotic' associations with the knives brothel inmates feel between their legs everyday. Words are important. I would like to know if male police officers named these operations, unaware of the insensitivity of phrasing.

Since the Las Vegas police must see the pathetic conditions that prostitutes live under, why would they use such a sadly callous and sexist title for this operation? The Las Vegas police report that the city has as many underage street prostitutes (most trafficked in by pimps) as bigger cities like Los Angeles and New York. Given this, they must see the misery of these girls. Sold girls are not 'dolls.'

Other questions about the raid: Why did it take two years to release the girls from their sexual slavery? Is not the fact of all those used condoms rolling down the street enough of a clue that something is terribly amiss? Two years while the girls were raped thousands of times.

A local aid worker who helps trafficked victims says she was not aware of anyone being sexually enslaved in the US until she herself began helping victims in 1997. Although I have great admiration for what she does, I do know that I have been aware of sexual slavery since I was quite young. I am not sure there was ever a time that I didn't know that the sale of female bodies is one of the most lucrative businesses on the planet. It is rather hard to miss it. When and where have women and girls not been sold for sex? Why would anyone think it does not happen in this country? Is there a city, a place, a haven, anywhere, in the history of our species, where sexual slavery has not been practiced? I have always been aware that my own safety exists at the expense of those less sexually protected in some terrible equation of unfairness and pain.

How many other brothels full of trafficked girls are operating right now in Las Vegas? It is one of the major sex-for-sale venues in the world. Wherever sex is a massive industry, as it is in this entertainment capital of the world--as it styles itself--there will be exploitation. In recent years, Las Vegas has seen a massive proliferation of Asian massage parlours, and the numerous escort services advertise many girls from both Asia and Eastern Europe. The phenomenon of selling more girls from these areas parallels the rise in trafficking worldwide.

Setting up services for trafficked girls in Las Vegas is very recent - only within the last year have organizations and women's groups actually recognized the problem¡Xthis despite the fact that Las Vegas has been 'Sin City' for decades.

Operation Jade Blade took place in 2000, Operation Doll House this year. Two stings within a period of seven years in a city where sex-for-sale is a commonplace? The Las Vegas yellow pages runs 150 pages of ads under the caption 'Entertainment.' Girls are offered under such headings as 'Barely Legal China Dolls and Asian Centerfolds and Asian Beauties.' 'Direct to you, petite and willing, you no happy, you no pay, wild, ready to have fun with you' - these are some of the promises. Along with 'full service,' as in 'Full Service Japanese and Chinese Teens.' 'Exotic European Girls' are there, along with 'Chinese Teens in Short Skirts' and 'Sizzling Asian Teen Strippers' and 'Chinese Take-Out, Asian Girls Are Better.' 'Affordable Asians' is yet another ad. Some present the girls as docile and submissive, in the traditional stereotype. 'No attitude' is the promise. They will do what you want.

There are, of course, plenty of ads for home-grown girls, but I do note that the marketing of Asians, and Eastern Europeans, in Las Vegas has increased enormously over the last few years. It would seem obvious that a link with trafficking is the reason.

Little cards with near-nude, provocatively posed girls and brochures are other ways that the escort and massage and entertainment services of Las Vegas advertise. One girl for $35, two-girl special for $60, etc.

Yet another aspect of the Las Vegas sex scene is an increase in 'Gentleman's Clubs,' some displaying just topless but others offering full nudity. Crazy Horse and Cheetah's and others have, of course, been a part of the Las Vegas scene for a long while; but around the city there now seems to be an explosion of nude entertainment. Many girls may be quite happily making lots of money in these clubs - if so, I would be really overjoyed to know this is the case--but we do not really know much in the way of their stories. Nor do we know much about the connection between these establishments and prostitution per se in Las Vegas. In fact, how much sexual activity is voluntary, and how much 'forced,' on the part of girls engaged in the various aspects of the sex industry in this city is impossible to tell. A local investigative reporter who has interviewed Las Vegas and Nevada prostitutes on-and-off for many years says that almost every girl he talked to stuck him as damaged in some way. The few who might actually benefit from selling sex were rare in his opinion.

How many of the escorts are independent operators and how many are controlled by pimps? Prostitution is illegal within Las Vegas itself, but legal in the adjacent county. Girls are sometimes trafficked into the legal establishments by pimps, who take the money. They are also trafficked between the escort services and strip clubs and brothels so as to provide fresh merchandize.

If the women and girls working in the Las Vegas and Nevada sex industries were there because they wanted to be, and were indeed making money, instead of it being siphoned off by pimps, owners, procurers, traffickers, it would be fine by me. I would like to envision a form of prostitution where the girl has control over her body and her finances. But I wonder if this is the case for many of them? Particularly with the huge increase over the past few years of Asians and Eastern Europeans being marketed. In addition to the two dozen rescued during Operation Doll House, how many more girls are being held in debt bondage and sexual slavery around the Las Vegas valley and in the adjacent county with its legal establishments? I doubt if this tiny handful of girls rescued in the raid is even the tip of the sexual misery going on out there.

Trying to get to talk to a girl in one of Nevada's legal brothels is tough. The places are way out in the desert and resemble prisons. If the activity is a prosperous and beneficial one for the girls, why are the places so hard to get into, or out of? And where would a girl go, out in the desert, if she did escape? There are only jackrabbits and coyotes out there.

Back to a question that I raised at the beginning of this article¡Xsince it is the one that troubles me most deeply: Why are the 'johns' who rape the girls not being arrested? Since I have been raped/prostituted, I know that what johns do to us is rape. They pay to rape an already thoroughly raped body. Why are these attackers going free? Please call johns what they are - rapists. And punish them for their sexual brutality.

It puzzles me why one girl raped by her boyfriend is considered so important and 'special' that she has rape crisis centers and counseling and prosecution under the law at her disposal; but if a girl is trafficked, broken, tortured, terrorized and raped over and over, on a daily basis, the many 'customers' who violate her multiple times are not even considered criminals.

If anyone reads this and knows about how the law operates, please let me know if the 'johns' are culpable under a new move in international law to regard any man as a rapist who uses a girl forced into sexual servitude. How does international law intersect with local law?

As you may know, Las Vegas has a famous slogan: 'What happens here, stays here.' What you may not know is that the phrase comes from the military. An uncle of mine, a WWII vet, told me it referred to the GI's buying and raping starving prostituted girls all across Europe and Asia. Obviously, they did not want their wives and girlfriends back home to know about the way they took advantage of women and girls and the way they forced conqueror sex on a destitute population, nor did they want the many babies they fathered and abandoned to come to light. So they all formed a 'pact' around that phrase, 'what happens here, stays here.' My uncle (who bought prostituted bodies in Japan) says he thought the phrase went back at least to WWI, when soldiers in that war behaved the same in France and elsewhere. And, of course, the same soldier/sailor mentality continues to this day, as our military stops off for the regulation sex binge in Bangkok, or our men buy girls trafficked into brothels for them near bases in Korea and other places overseas. 'What happens here, stays here.' An appropriate 'slogan,' no? - for Las Vegas, a major sex-for-sale city.

It seems unlikely that Las Vegas will ever tackle the exploitative aspect of its sex industry. There is too much money to be made. It is also too much a part of the 'glamourous' aspect of Sin City. My temporary solution would be to at least not treat the girls as criminals, no matter if they are 'trafficked' or not. I would set up extensive services (physical and mental health care, job training, mentoring by ex-prostitutes) for those trying to escape prostitution, including actively seeking out enslaved girls since the truly oppressed are often not in a position to escape on their own - too beaten down and terrified and broken. For those who are in the profession voluntarily, I would advocate 'protective' services for these girls that really work in their favor, including decriminalizing it totally for the women, and punishing exploiters and pimps as slavers and rapists. 'Legalizing' has been a failure. It is time to envision a completely different path for protecting girls involved in selling sex. This is matter for a whole article, or book, on its own, for a later time.

I would like to conclude by saying that I hope these poor 'doll-house' girls receive nurturing care for many years to come. They will need the kindness of the generous-hearted people at the Salvation Army, and WestCare, for a long, long time. It takes a whole lifetime to heal from being raped everyday by johns. And even then the sexual scarring is inside forever.

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