Treated as criminals, but aren’t they victims?

A few days ago, a missionary friend posted an article on Facebook. There are a lot of sex trafficking stories out there, with the media taking the subject up as the new “hot topic.” The stories are all very similar, so I usually don’t read them.

But the title of this one caught my attention: “Woman’s Vegas ‘dream’ smashed by sex industry torture”.

Most of my presentations to students about the topic, emphasize how pimps will try to sell them a dream: love, fame, fortune, security, etc. Whatever fits her fancy, he will promise. The title of the article lends to that idea, so I clicked it thinking it might be a good tool to reinforce Red Light Rebellion’s information.

The story ended up being lengthy, and the torture described was hard to read. I cringed, and thought of all my friends who share similar stories. But the violence described wasn’t what angered or devastated me: what wasn’t written did. At this point, if you haven’t read the article in its entirety, please do so before reading any more of this post…. 

Sharpe’s most trusted prostitute, Kariah Heiden, was ordered to teach the woman “the game,” the report said. Heiden was several months pregnant at the time, but together the pair began arranging “dates,” targeting older men in casinos who returned their smiles….

But the beatings started just a few weeks later, the woman said. Sharpe beat Heiden and the woman with a leather belt after he suspected they lied about their earnings, the report said….

The woman wanted to leave after the attack, but Sharpe and Heiden kept a close watch on her, she said. She didn’t believe she was free to go, the report said.

Sharpe once struck her in the head with the firearm, causing severe bleeding, she said. Heiden helped her clean the blood after the pistol-whipping, she said, but that was the only time she recalled Heiden offering aid….

Sharpe often complained he couldn’t beat Heiden because she was pregnant, the report said.

Kariah Heiden.

What did you think of her throughout the article? Obviously on the pimps side right? Was only beaten once, and that was for lying; which is understandable I guess. Kept the woman a prisoner to the pimp. Only helped the woman once. Doesn’t seem like an upstanding person. The end of the article reports the Lieutenant Karen Hughes addressing her:

Heiden was also arrested on the same charges as Sharpe, Hughes said. Heiden was Sharpe’s “bottom girl,” who watched the abuse happen without reporting him, she said.

Good thing that was at the end of the article. My blood began to boil so much reading that. How dare she! How dare she!!

To condemn Kariah because she watched and didn’t report the abuse???

Did anyone ask Kariah how she ended up with the pimp?

Did anyone care to ask about all the things that happened to her?

Did anyone think to consider that she was so victimized, battered, and brainwashed that she was too petrified to contact authorities?

The Bottom is a pimp’s right hand girl. She is the most trusted, the most loyal, and usually the most victimized. One of my friends was a Bottom and her story is more brutal than any other survivor’s that I know. And it’s not because her pimp was more violent than other pimps, it is because my friend was the Bottom.

Fortunately my friend has a detective who was on her side and helped get her out of jail and intro an aftercare program. She is now getting promotions at her job and raising her children. But guess what has been holding her back all year? Her criminal record. She was initially charged with all 20+ felonies that her pimp was charged with. Even though the charges were dropped, they still come up when a business runs her record.

But why was she charged in the first place? She was caught in a sting operation and would not cooperate with police to disclose important information on her pimp. Why? Because the pimp’s family had her son, and she knew that if she said or did anything against the pimp, they would hurt her son. So she stayed silent.

She was in jail for 18 months before getting word that her son was safe with her family. Once she found that out, she was more than willing to rat on the pimp. Could this be Kariah too? We will never know because we decided just to blame her for doing what her pimp told her to do, assuming that obedience was loyalty to the pimp and not a matter of survival or brainwash.

New articles are constantly appearing of those exploited in the sex industry. If these articles report the pimp being punished, it often includes the mention of the pimp’s “girlfriend”  or trusted prostitute who “helped” him. Bottoms are recruited, victimized, exploited, and brainwashed the exact same way as every other victim. Their experience may even be more unique because the pimp relies so heavily on her.

Law enforcement, the media, and our judicial system has to stop condemning the Bottom as a criminal alongside the pimp. We must begin to recognizing her as a victim too. She needs rehabilitation, healing, and services just as much as the others. We cannot just rescue and offer services to the prostitutes we like or whose stories make the most sense to us.

If we are serious about eradicating sex slavery, if we truly believe that one exploited woman is too many, than we must view every woman under a pimp’s control as a victim.

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3 thoughts on “Treated as criminals, but aren’t they victims?

  1. Thank you for this very insightful article. I am Kariah Heiden’s adoptive mother. She came to me when she was 15 years old after living with her father’s family. Her father had committed suicide when she was seven and one of her father’s brothers sexually assaulted her when she was eight. When I became her foster mom she was a broken child who attempted suicide many times and was cutting herself. I have had many foster children but Kariah was my most challenging. She has a beautiful heart and a love for children but no self-esteem. She left me to go find her biological mom in Las Vegas she had stopped cutting and had not attempted suicide in over a year. Her father’s family are all alcoholics and Kariah was drinking at a young age because the family would “celebrate” the anniversary of her father’s death by all getting drunk. After some time in Las Vegas with her biological mom she started to drink again. Her mom showed her Toughlove and Kariah rebelled. That is when she met Mr. Sharpe. When she did come around her mom she had multiple bruises and even bite marks. The pimp’s family has her infant son and of course she will never go against if it means keeping her baby safe. I pray for Kariah every day and hope that she will be able to see the right thing to do. thank you for this heartfelt article about my special girl.

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    1. Hello Laura, it has taken me several days to reply because I was trying to find words. Reading Kariah’s story makes my heart go out for her even more, and my anger increase toward the system she is suck in. I have been praying for her a lot since your post. Her story reminds me so much of my friend Leah who I referenced in the post. The story of God’s redemption in her life is unbelievable! And I know that Christ desires that kind of redemption for everyone; so I am praying for Kariah’s.

      I have been trying to think of a way to reach Kariah to give her hope and strength and wisdom on how to handle her situation. It made me think of Leah again. She has written a book called “Game Over”. Her story out of sex trafficking. She wants to raise awareness with it, but her biggest desire is to help other women who are trapped in the LIfe get out. If possible, please consider sending Kariah her book. I will do it myself if able. There are so many similarities, I think that Kariah will really be able to relate and hopefully receive God’s Love and redemption for her in the midst of such a trying situation.

      http://www.iamleahrogers.com/#!i-am/cri1.

      Email me at brandon.breannavales@gmail.com if you would like to get in contact with Leah personally or would like to discuss more. I will continue to pray for you and Kariah!

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  2. I was in jail with kariah. I love her as a person. She is smart and caring. She did what was best for herself. Especially after I was her bunny, we would be into God’s word. She was released soon after I was. GOD is good. All the time.

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