How Traffickers Use Counterfeit “Love” to Exploit Victims

How Traffickers Use Counterfeit “Love” to Exploit Victims

Love is one of the values we meditate on together as a team. A reflection from our love meditation goes like this: 

“Love is a choice that is at once selfless and self-giving. Loving people unconditionally means never expecting anything in return, it means offering oneself in the service of others...Loving people unconditionally also means healing, restoration, redemption, hope, and grace for ourselves – self-giving.”

We are made for love. But our wrongdoers take advantage of that. 

Traffickers often use false love and manipulation to groom their victims and exploit them.  

Ava is a survivor-turned-thriver who now works as Savhera’s fulfillment coordinator and sales enthusiast. She tells how her trafficker deceived her with false love. She said that her trafficker targeted her when she was most vulnerable, most in need of true love. Her trafficker used another woman to compliment Ava, calling her beautiful and giving her a sense of worth. This other woman sang praises of the man who would traffic Ava, saying he would give Ava true love. 

Ava explains that when she met her trafficker, “he was everything she explained to me. Handsome. Wealthy. Charismatic. Romantic. He told me he wanted to make my dreams come true.” 

The trafficker pretended to love Ava. He promised her a life of luxury. Ava writes, 

"I spent two days with him where he showered me with clothes, gifts, shoes, money and love. I finally found a place where I was accepted for who I was. I was finally appreciated and cared for in a way I hadn’t been before. My perception at the time was that I was dropped off in heaven where my “angel” was going to take care of me forever.” 

But the false “love” soon started showing signs of the trafficker’s plans for selfish gain. 

Ava tells the story, “After those two days, I was flown to South Carolina where I was sold for the first time to a stranger for $200. I remember how disgusting I felt.” 

Ava was trafficked for three years by the man who pretended to love her. He used manipulative tactics to convince Ava that she had to endure the exploitation to one day live the life she desired. He brainwashed her to believe that he loved her and that’s why he was doing this to her. 

Ava explains the tactics all too often used by traffickers, “I was brainwashed to believe that if I was loyal and did everything my trafficker asked of me, I would make a great life for myself, and he would help me because he loved me. The “clients” would beat me, rape me, pepper spray me, try to kidnap me but I always had in the back of my mind, “This is what I have to do for now. Eventually, the two of us will get out of this and have a life for ourselves.”

Thankfully, Ava is now free from this manipulative and selfish counterfeit “love.” Getting arrested (her trafficker’s fault!) and being separated from her trafficker was what finally helped her see the reality behind his lies. Now Ava is thriving as she pursues education, builds authentic community, and works with Savhera. She says, “To me, this is not just a job. I have found people who truly care for me and love me unconditionally.” 

Ava always deserved real love. And now that the lies of her trafficker are silenced, she says, “I know my identity, my strengths, and my worth.”

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