Sex-trafficking survivor (Salt Lake Tribune)

Posted on October 30, 2014, in News, Personal Experiences, Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Societal, Women

Publication Information

Title: Sex-trafficking survivor: ‘God put the best Mormons in my path for me to change’
Publication: The Salt Lake Tribune
Author: Peggy Fletcher Stack
Date: 10/28/2014

Three weeks ago, Laurin Crosson got word that yet another “client” had slit the throat of yet another sex-trafficked woman.

Crosson — who spent two decades in that dark, violent world — has seen the scenario painfully play out over and over.

The No. 1 cause of death for women in the sex trade is murder, she says. Many either have no families or have been isolated by pimps. Their bodies often remain unclaimed in morgues.

Lost. Forgotten. Abandoned.

But Crosson cannot look away. Cannot do nothing. Cannot stay away from the streets, where she reaches out to women — often girls, really — who are beaten, battered and brutalized by the men who control them.

The trafficking survivor has launched RockStarr Ministries to provide support, counseling and assistance, so women can escape that life and regain some freedom, choices and dignity.

On Wednesday night, RockStarr and other survivor-run organizations worldwide will stage memorial services to remember trafficked individuals who have lost their lives.

The Utah service will be held at 7 p.m. at downtown Salt Lake City’s Main Library.

“We need to do something for our sisters,” Crosson says in an interview. “We need to bring awareness to the deaths and damage. People don’t realize how prevalent the sex trade is — even in Utah.”

The reformer believes she might be dead now, too, had she not found a Mormon community willing to embrace her and support her as she extricated herself from the bonds of sex trafficking.

“I was so fortunate. I fell into the right LDS ward. It has been a lifesaver for me,” Crosson says. “God put me in the right place.”

A Kind of Slavery

Forget the “Pretty Women” stereotypes of those who find themselves trafficked, Crosson says. There is no one type of person who gets trapped in sexual exploitation. No one is immune. And don’t call these women prostitutes.

“Historically, prostitute meant a woman or girl — there were other terms for trafficked males — who was selling sexual favors for money,” Crosson says. “It casts the woman as not only a willing, cynical participant, but as culpable … a complicit solicitor of whatever criminality ‘prostitution’ bears as her ‘profession.’ But I assure you, this is not the case.”

As for Crosson, she grew up in the 1970s in Newport Beach, Calif., in an upper-middle-class family. Her parents were doctors and she was “an athlete, champion ice skater and a star softball player,” Crosson explained this summer in a Sunstone Symposium presentation. “I was bright and popular and went to college.”

But traffickers, she says, can find a “vulnerability wherever it might manifest — young, not young, male, female. There is no target they can’t reach, no pain they can’t turn to their advantage.”

In 2007, after years of “sex slavery,” Crosson fled to Utah from California.

“By that time in my life I had been with my pimp for more than 15 years. Almost none of the actions I took at that point in my life were ever my choice,” she explains. “I was owned, as a piece of property, by another human being. I did what he told me to do, or I was beaten, starved or drugged into compliance.”

Crosson sought help from an LDS bishop associated with Deseret Industries. He introduced her to his wife, who ran an organization for victims of domestic abuse. The Mormon woman took in Crosson, and the two formed a lasting friendship.

Within a year or so, the sex-trafficked porn star had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she says. “God put the best Mormons in my path for me to change my life.”

One of those best Mormons: Nate Murray.

“Laurin was always pretty open about her past, but I didn’t know the depths of her experience until later,” says Murray, who was her LDS “home teacher” — assigned by his Mormon congregation’s leaders to help her. “I knew she had been arrested a time or two and that she had been forced to make films.”

To Murray, though, Crosson was a smart, well-educated woman with a lot of opinions about art, music, sports and current events.

He finds her work with RockStarr Ministries to be “noble,” Murray says. “Sometimes in the church, we shy away from those types of issues. They seem far away from us so we don’t want to talk about them.”

Crosson helped him think differently, he says, about “how we view people affected by or coerced to work in that industry.”

Changing attitudes about trafficking is what Crosson is all about.

Cold Cash

Who gets the money? Not the women, Crosson says.

“Pimps, brothels, porn producers and trafficking cartels get the money in 98 percent of trafficking transactions,” the former victim asserts.

Her pimp, for example, had hundreds of women under his control, each one of whom netted the man $160,000 a year, she says. “They saw none of it. … One of my last years with him, he made $666,000 from trafficking just me. I saw none of it.”

Crosson is grateful to count herself among the survivors.

“I want people to see me,” she says. “I want people to know my story, know how Jesus Christ has worked in my life to save me, and how I owe it to God to use my voice to make change.”

Every RockStarr business card the group distributes to trafficking victims, Crosson points out, carries a quote from a Mormon scripture reiterating that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”

That’s the impetus behind Wednesday’s memorial.

So no one is forgotten in God’s eyes, she says, or in our own.

 

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