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October 20, 2014

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J. Patrick Coolican:

The psychology of pimping, and how a community can help

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

The 9-1-1 call is chilling: A woman, who has locked herself in a room after enduring a severe beating, screams. Then she screams again and again. If there are words, they are unintelligible, but terror can be conveyed without words.

Metro Police Detective Chris Baughman played the tape at a human trafficking conference at UNLV on Saturday to illustrate the brutality of the pimps he investigates.

The pimp had beaten the woman with a baseball bat. Baughman showed pictures of the bat, now damaged from hitting human bone. The victim, whose identity was concealed, had archipelagos of yellow and purple bruising on her face, thighs, torso and breasts.

I recently shared the story of a young woman who thought she had a boyfriend but really had a pimp, and she has thankfully made it out of the life.

Saturday’s conference was instructive about the other side, the pimps who keep all the money the women make. It’s not clear what percentage of prostitutes have pimps, but Metro Police and Alexis Kennedy, a UNLV forensic psychologist who is an expert in human trafficking, say it’s a significant portion. In other words, many prostitutes are not freely engaging in a consensual money-for-sex arrangement — they are held captive, often with violence and the threat of violence.

Kennedy says more research is needed, but notes an intriguing area of inquiry in the relationship between pimps and psychopathy.

Psychopaths can be outwardly glib or charismatic, but are in fact deeply manipulative. They feel no empathy or remorse and avoid responsibility. They can be aggressive and violent and are often pathological liars.

This would seem to fit perfectly many of the pimps Baughman describes, including in his book, “Off the Street.”

Kennedy said pimps look for a particular type of woman, especially minors, hundreds of whom she’s interviewed. They are often vulnerable, perhaps having faced sexual assault. Baughman, by contrast, says victims he works with, who are not minors, often come from strong families and include women who have graduated from high school and may be in college.

Once lured in, often with notions of romantic love, pimps use all manner of psychological manipulation, including humiliation, drugs and hopelessness. All of this, Kennedy says, helps instill something akin to “Stockholm Syndrome” — when a captive forms a bond with the captor as a survival mechanism.

When the effectiveness of psychological manipulation wanes, the pimp might resort to violence.

Kennedy draws similarities between a trafficked person and a woman who is a victim of domestic violence. Sure enough, a key challenge for Baughman is getting women to testify against their pimps.

What can we do? The first thing is to raise our voices against the wink-and-nod portrayals of pimps and prostitutes in popular culture. Surely we wouldn’t stand for casual glamorization of domestic violence in songs or movies, would we? I’m not trying to be Sen. Joe Lieberman here, and I love the outlaw ethos of American cinema. But on the way out the door to a “pimps and prostitutes” party, maybe ask yourself if you’d ever go to a “domestic violence” party.

We can also educate legislators so they’ll toughen our statutes governing “pandering,” which is the legal term for pimping. Baughman says the toughest sentence he can get is four years, five if there’s violence. But he says that pimps sometimes only get probation, especially if the women are afraid or unwilling to testify. Just five years for violently enslaving another human being? Also, pimps should be classified as sex offenders and forced to register as such once released. If we’re worried about the prison costs, we should reduce the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders.

Finally, we need more services for women who want to escape and a safe place for them once they do.

Baughman closes his presentation with a more satisfying phone recording, this one a collect call from a pimp locked up in the county jail. His assets have just been seized by police.

Told that his safe deposit box is empty except for the warrant, he’s dejected and responds, “And the money was gone? The money was gone? My life is over. My life is o-v-e-r.”

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  1. It's a whole sub-culture and language. It's actually very interesting when you look at it but you always have to understand that there is a brutality in the under current of the sub-culture.

  2. This story is unremarkable considering the fact that Las Vegas promotes sex so much. When you come to this site, yes the Las Vegas Sun's site, what picture do we all see to the right? Most of the time it''s a picture of a sexy girl somewhere close by.

    I have been exposed to the "game" and I can assure you that it is an institution in Las Vegas. Everyone looks the other way from the property owners to the property managers to the casino workers to the night club workers to the escort services to the police. They're all in on it. And we know this and are supposed to be okay with it.

    Obviously there are a lot of young single men and women from around the world who come to Vegas. If you're male and you want sex and you don't have time for foreplay then Las Vegas is willing to provide. "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." I can assure you that saying is not in reference to gambling.

    Pimps run escort services as a cover throughout the city and the police know this. But what would happen if the city wanted to shut down prostitution and put a cash squeeze on the pimps? They could do it if they wanted but it would hurt the "sin city" reputation of the city and create a vacuum perhaps filled by Reno or more likely brothels outside of Clark county.

    Mr. Coolican, with all due respect sir, the conference you attended is a sham, a con, a flimflam. The stories and conclusions put forth are sexy and interesting but we can't have it both ways. Pimps and the destruction they cause are an inherent risk that occurs when you combine strip clubs, topless/nude dancing inside main stream establiments, alcohol/drugs and money. Sex is promoted so heavily here and you can't escape it. Like it or not pimps are a cog in the sex machine of Las Vegas.

  3. Anyone attacking another person with any kind of "weapon", be it a knife, gun, baseball bat, etc should be charged with attempted murder and tossed into the big house for at least 20 years. These "men", who beat up on their females, for whatever reason, need to be treated like the trash they are.

  4. There goes Birdie with her "the ACLU supports human trafficking" nonsense. She forgets that she indirectly funds human trafficking. That is if she can ever come up with anything more than a guess that any of the women responding to calls for companionship are victims of human trafficking.
    The ACLU defends the 1st Amendment, and, like it or not, the 1st Amendment was written to protect the free speech rights of human traffickers. So anyone who supports the 1st Amendment are supporting human trafficking.
    Birdie asserts her 1st Amendment Rights to spread nonsense, the most fundamental way to support the 1st Amendment. By her own reasoning, she is supporting (and funding don't forget) human trafficking.

  5. Hey Steve,

    You do know that "Human Sex Trafficking" is the "Day Care Sex Abuse Epidemic" of the '10s right"

    "It's not clear what percentage of prostitutes have pimps, but Metro Police and Alexis Kennedy, a UNLV forensic psychologist who is an expert in human trafficking, say it's a significant portion. In other words, many prostitutes are not freely engaging ...."

    No....In other words, THEY DON'T know. They don't know because they don't want to know. They don't want to know because if they knew then they wouldn't get to have "human trafficking conferences" at UNLV and waste our tax dollars.

    Show me a pimp. Not a lazy fool, whose girl is a 'ho. Show me a real pimp. A guy with at least four girl's who turn their money over to him. A guy will act as an enforcer when the John doesn't want to pay. A pimp.

    Then show me the girl who has been bought and sold as a sex slave.

    Until you produce actual evidence of sex trafficking stop telling us fairy tales.

    Yes we shouldn't talk to strangers, but you wouldn't write a story about the epidemic of wolves roaming the woods preying on the grandmothers of crimson clad teens, would you? Because, like human trafficking, it doesn't exist.

  6. Why, Coolican, why do you continue to perpetuate this myth of human trafficking and child sex slaves? You MUST be aware that the estimated number of victims that have been promoted have been PROVEN to be bogus. The astonishing numbers that suggest a plague of underage sex slaves were junk science MADE UP mostly by non-profit groups trying to extract money from Congress. By pulling numbers from thin air or using overly-broad definitions (such as defining any hooker who works in an area other than her native soil, and sometimes even on her native soil, as "trafficked") news publications with a reputation for actual investigation are creating a hysteria similar to the satanic child molester day care provider scare back in the eighties. If anyone reading this doubts me, please just google it. You will be bombarded with reports that expose the truth. Go ahead, do it.

    As for your story of a "young woman who thought she had a boyfriend but really had a pimp", she was right the first time--she had a boyfriend. She had a lazy jerk of a boyfriend who at best was a wanna-be pimp. Where were the other girls in his stable? I didn't read anything about how he would bring customers to this young lady with the expectation that she service them. No, I read about a teenager who made some poor choices because she was in love with her loser boyfriend. She was a LOCAL girl whose mother and sister were begging her to come home and she CHOSE to stay with her boyfriend. If he trusted her to be alone at casinos and find her own clients how much danger was she actually in? At 16, she was not a child sex slave but a foolish teenage girl past the age of consent who got used. Many self-proclaimed pimps use the word to describe their dating style, which is to date women that will support them. I am sure your victim's boyfriend would not have cared what she did for work as long as it meant he would be supported. The vast majority of sex workers do not use pimps. Sure, the stereotypical abusive pimp might be out there but they are a dying breed.

  7. Decriminalize prostitution. Then the abusive element is eliminated.

    WHat is the government against? Sex? Or the free market?

  8. I'm not optimistic that any amount of government planned assistance can benefit women enough to generate the internal resources to rely on themselves and not be dependent on a male. I am optimistic that CONVICTING THE JOHNS will deter prostitution. And, by all means incarcerate the pimps. Not much point at all in arresting or incarcerating the prostitutes, male and female as the pimps can easily locate replacements.

  9. Treasure?: It's not about sex. It's about force on the prostitutes FORCING them to prostitute. No problem with consensual exchanges. It is a problem when the prostitute is there because of force, threats, intimidation..... I don't care what gets you through the night as long as it doesn't involve children or violence.

  10. Our government never ceases to amaze me with their stupidity and lack of understanding with the human mindset. Go back in history; prostitution is the oldest profession that the moral cops made illegal and now we spend billions trying to enforce laws that make no sense. Remove the laws and let the women do what they enjoy and get paid for it. Let's not forget, the taxes raised would benefit all and crimes against women would drop immensely. Look oversees, it's legal and regulated and the money generated from tourists aboard benefits them, not us.

  11. "...many prostitutes are not freely engaging in a consensual money-for-sex arrangement -- they are held captive, often with violence and the threat of violence."

    Coolican -- how about a column about all those who ARE "freely engaging in a consensual money for-sex arrangement"? Like HadleyH, who commented on your April 3 article. She did a good job of blowing away the stereotypes so many here perpetuate.

    What I see mostly in your column today is the likes of Baughman keeping this issue hot in the public eye mainly to save his job from budget axes. As I've posted here before, long ago I bought the services offered by prostitutes. One of them had a pimp, and he was just there to get paid and for protection in case she screamed. Seemed a sensible arrangement in that context.

    "Mr. Coolican, with all due respect sir, the conference you attended is a sham, a con, a flimflam. . . Pimps and the destruction they cause are an inherent risk that occurs when you combine strip clubs, topless/nude dancing inside main stream establiments, alcohol/drugs and money. Sex is promoted so heavily here and you can't escape it."

    duke -- amen to that.

    "Decriminalize prostitution. Then the abusive element is eliminated."

    Treasure -- except for any actual violent crimes, amen to that! What consenting adults do in private is nobody else's business, especially government's.

    "It's not about sex. It's about force on the prostitutes FORCING them to prostitute. No problem with consensual exchanges."

    Roslenda -- amen to that, too

    "Go back in history; prostitution is the oldest profession that the moral cops made illegal and now we spend billions trying to enforce laws that make no sense. Remove the laws and let the women do what they enjoy and get paid for it."

    its2hot -- I recall an event from Greek history where a courtesan (prostitutes honored in that society) was summoned to court on the charge she was corrupting politicians. She disrobed and was acquitted. The raw power of female beauty won then, and it continues to win now. That's ignored way too often in these Discussions.

    For real prostitutes check out this old definition from Bouvier's Sixth (c) 1856 -- "In a figurative sense, it signifies the bad use which a corrupt judge makes of the law, by making it subservient to his interest; as, the prostitution of the law, the prostitution of justice."

    See? Prostitution as a practice is alive and well and everywhere you're not looking!

  12. Freedom 2...I never said that human trafficking doesn't exist. I said there isn't a plague of child sex slaves that are trafficked. Most victims of human trafficking are undocumented MEN forced to do work in factories to pay off their "debt". But that just doesn't sound as sensational.

    Six years into his presidency, Bush had burned through $150 million in an effort to put an end to widespread sex slavery. But of the 300,000 supposed victims during that time, the Justice Department managed to find just 1,362. Less than half were actual sex slaves. An even smaller number were underage prostitutes.

    Steve Wagner worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, serving as director of the Human Trafficking Program under Bush. He threw millions of dollars at community groups to aid victims. Yet as he told the Washington Post in 2007, "Those funds were wasted....They were available to help victims. There weren't any victims."

    I wonder what your agenda is promoting something that doesn't exist.

  13. Does anyone really believe we can get politicians to outlaw "pandering" - really? When the majority of our politicians have become the highest paid "prostitutes" in any profession ever?

    Let's get real shall we? No one wants a violent criminal element, the pimps and the whores or sex slaves, that's true! Nevada needs to legalize, regulate and tax the entire "adult entertainment" industry - then raise the penalty for any violent crime against anyone (and do a massive education promotional program so these thugs know they can't do violence in Vegas) - that will clean up the entire matter!

    I want our police going after pedophiles and violent criminals that threaten everyone's peace - not wasting time and resources on "the dating game" or private matters!

    Let's be honest - "pay-to-play" is what politics is all about now-a-days, and America's business IS business where almost everyone is open to the idea of doing whatever it takes to make a buck, sadly!

    I live near a college, and have four neighbors that are in the "adult entertainment" industry - they are smart, drop-dead gorgeous, funny, healthy and happy - and they intend to graduate with zero debt, great credit and lots of cash already stashed away! They don't cross any legal lines, and when they need security they hire professional help! Yep, they're "job creators" too!

    Candidly, I've got more respect for the truly professional prostitutes than I do for most politicians!