This is a section of an article by the Honorable Toko Serita.

[Toko Serita is a New York City Criminal Court judge who was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2005. She is currently the presiding judge of the Human Trafficking Intervention Court (HTIC), the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court (a drug treatment court), and the Queens Mental Health Recovery Court.]


2. Pimp-Controlled Prostitution

Pimp-controlled prostitution is not limited to child prostitution. A significant portion of street-level prostitution of adult women is pimp-controlled.

It has been reported that “the majority of women in prostitution at some point are under the control of a pimp.”

Street-level prostitution “represents that segment of the prostitution industry where there is the most violence.”

Indeed, violence, subjugation, and control are integral aspects of pimp-controlled prostitution,

and, therefore, constitute another form of domestic sex trafficking in the United States.


The true culture of pimping is far removed from the glorified portrayal of pimps popularized by the mass media. The “pimping game” includes standardized business practices and strict adherence by both the pimp and the prostitutes he controls to the rules of “the game.”

One commentator notes that


pimps live by “myriad rules and codes – all designed to break down the individual will [of a prostitute].”

Prostituted women who fail to abide by “the rules” of the “game” are severely punished. They may be beaten for not making their “quotas,” looking another pimp directly in the eye, or disagreeing with their pimps.

In some instances, pimps will even brand or tattoo their victims with the pimps’ name or some other identifying marker in order to reinforce their complete domination over their victims.


The dynamics of pimp-controlled prostitution can be very complicated because a pimp may have sexual relationships with many of the women in his “family”

and the victims may even have children by their pimps. In this regard, pimps resemble domestic batterers because the power and control they maintain over women in their stable is similar to the power that domestic batterers often retain over their intimate partners.

Women under the control of a pimp may also resemble victims of domestic violence in that they “often express feelings of love and admiration for the pimp, have their freedom and finances controlled, and may feel they somehow deserve the violence they are dealt.”

This emotional control may help explain why it is often difficult for prostitutes to leave their pimps.
Pimp-controlled women are primarily poor and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because they are without stable families, jobs, and educational prospects.


Although there are distinct differences in the experiences of domestic and foreign trafficking victims, “[i]n many ways, the process of sexual enslavement for a U.S. citizen parallels that of the foreign-born victim: often her documents are confiscated by her pimp or trafficker, she is taken from her home, initiated—or, “seasoned”—through gang rapes and beatings, assigned a quota to be filled nightly, and held through both threatened and real violence.”