- Almost all sex traffickers in America now brand their slaves with tattoos
- Crowns, bags of money and pimps’ initials are common, police say
- Some of the women are even branded with a unique bar code to show who ‘owns’ them
Mia De Graaf For Dailymail.com
22:09 EST, 6 September 2015
04:19 EST, 7 September 2015
Just below her collar bone, beneath a bauble necklace, 17-year-old Adriana has a name delicately tattooed in swirly handwriting.
It is the name of her owner.
At the age of just 14, she – like so many of America’s approximately 800,000 sex slaves today – was branded by a man named Cream who promised her everything in exchange for ‘doing some work’.
Beyond the physical abuse and emotional torment, this permanent scar acts as a daily reminder for hundreds of thousands of women of violence, fear and oppression at the hands of tyrannical pimps.
Branded: Adriana calls this tattoo her ‘war wound’. It bears the name of a pimp who made her a sex slave at 14
She is one of just a few women to have escaped. Hundreds of thousands of American women – and children – are enslaved and tattooed by pimps then forced to sell their bodies to fund a life of drugs and violence
Police forces have come to recognize certain ‘marks’ that distinguish victims of the $9billion slave trade.
Often, a girl will bear a crown with their captor’s initials.
Dollar signs and bags of money are also common. In many cases the women will have a name tattooed across their body in numerous places – above their groin, down their arm and on her neck.
Some are even branded with a unique bar code.
Adriana told CNN of her own tattoo: ‘I call it my war wound.’
The sickening ritual – which echoes the branding of cattle, of Roman slaves and of Auschwitz prisoners – has given rise to Survivor’s Ink, an organization fundraising to help escaped sex-trafficking victims remove or cover up the tattoos.
Police have said it is not uncommon for a woman to be branded with a barcode, such as the one above, indicating their ‘owner’
Nowhere to hide: Modern day captors – like Roman slave owners or Auschwitz directors – leave obvious, graphic and permanent scars on their victims. Few women today can escape a life on the streets unmarked
Crowns such as this one across a victim’s chest are a common symbol used to brand women in America’s $9billion sex slavery industry
‘It very much so is a psychological form of bondage,’ said Jennifer Kempton – founder of Survivors Ink and a survivor of sex trafficking.
She now helps other women cover up their tattoos – like she did with the four inkings she was forced to have.
She said of being branded and the subsequent cover-up with a different design: ‘It ties you to those memories and it ties you to those feelings that you felt when you got that and to be able to be free of enslavement and then to make an active choice of, “This is what I want on my body, not this man’s name or this gang’s symbol, I want my daughter’s name, I want a beautiful flower, I want a religious scripture, I want a butterfly to show that I have wings, and I can fly.”‘
Kempton was led into a life of abuse by ‘Salem’, the man she believed would protect her after she was raped at the age of 12 by her brother’s friend at home in Columbus, Ohio.
For the next five years she suffered innumerable attacks and rapes, and was branded several times. ‘Property of Salem’ was inked above her groin, ‘King Munch’ – the name of the gang – was tattooed on her neck – while other men left their names on her arms and back.
Dollar signs and money bags are etched onto victims’ arms, necks, groins, legs and backs
A crown is usually accompanied by the pimp’s initials. It is common for girls to bear multiple names
According to Kempton, no girl or woman escapes the streets unmarked.
She fled after two failed attempts to hang herself. When the rope broke, she decided it was a sign to try to escape.
Now, her body is embroidered with flowers, scripture and delicate drawings.
‘It was so liberating to take his name off of my body and have what I want there,’ she said.
‘The love I had been seeking my whole life, I got it with that tattoo.’