Sex traffickers are using short term lets in Cork as pop-up brothels: 'It's facilitating the indoor sex trade massively'

Sex traffickers are using short term lets in Cork as pop-up brothels: 'It's facilitating the indoor sex trade massively'

Nikki Bell, Massachusetts, Melanie Thompson, New York and Mickey Meji, Cape Town, survivors of the sex trade with Amanda Keane, left, Ruhama, gathered ahead of a conference organised by Ruhama to call out ‘The Sexual Violence of Prostitution and Pornography’, marking the global 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence. 

SEX traffickers are using Airbnbs in Cork as the location for pop-up brothels to exploit vulnerable migrant women.

Amanda Keane from Ruhuma, a national organisation working to help those affected by prostitution, has warned that the sex trade is using short term lets to move women around the country.

"A lot of these women would be touring and Cork has the second biggest sex trade in Ireland," Amanda said.

She stressed that short-term lets are often favoured by pimps to avoid detection.

"It's facilitating the indoor sex trade massively," she said. 

"It means the organisers of the crime don't have to expose themselves so they'll operate behind web pages. 

"This allows them to put a woman into the short term let and dictate who is going to come and see her. It has made things a lot easier for criminals. 

"If you have a short term let it's not going to arouse the same kind of suspicion as a long term one where there are buyers coming all the time."

Nikki Bell, left, Massachusetts, Melanie Thompson, New York and Mickey Meji, Cape Town, right, survivors of the sex trade with Amanda Keane, 2nd right, Ruhama, gathered ahead of a conference organised by Ruhama taking place in the Mansion House on Thursday to call out ‘The Sexual Violence of Prostitution and Pornography’, marking the global 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence. Photograph Moya Nolan
Nikki Bell, left, Massachusetts, Melanie Thompson, New York and Mickey Meji, Cape Town, right, survivors of the sex trade with Amanda Keane, 2nd right, Ruhama, gathered ahead of a conference organised by Ruhama taking place in the Mansion House on Thursday to call out ‘The Sexual Violence of Prostitution and Pornography’, marking the global 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence. Photograph Moya Nolan

Ms Keane warned that it is illegal for landlords to live off the earnings of prostitution.

She said it was unclear of property owners were aware that their homes were being used as locations for the sex trade.

"However, the message needs to be out there that anyone owning short term properties should be aware of the possibility that a trafficker or pimp may be exploiting women," she added.

"Sometimes it can be very clear. If the woman doesn't have a word of English that's a strong indicator there is someone behind this who is the driving force. 

"Being silent means being complicit. 

"Sex crimes are hidden in plain sight but they are also being ignored. 

"97% of the women affected by prostitution or trafficking are migrants. Unfortunately, people don't seem to care about the plight of migrant women and how they are being exploited in brothels across the country."

Ms Keane is encouraging landlords to report suspicious behaviour on their property.

She also advised Cork men not to be fooled by website photos advertising women in glamorous surroundings.

"Websites are never going to show a picture of a woman who is battered, bruised and crying," she said. 

"Instead, photographs are doctored to look like the woman is happy and there to please the buyer. Very often, even the surroundings are changed to suggest they are in a glamorous setting. The reality is very different."

She added that the women being exploited are given completely different personas.

"Details of the women's nationalities are being changed on the websites. 

"Locations can be a blatant indicator of whether someone is trafficked. 

"If you look on Escort Ireland you'll see descriptions stating that a girl is Spanish or Italian when she is, in fact, from Romania."

Anyone affected by sexual exploitation in Cork can contact the Sexual Violence Centre. 

The organisation was founded by Mary Crilly and has been providing services to victims of sexual violence in Cork city and County for over 33 years.

:: To find out more about the sexual violence centre visit http://www.sexualviolence.ie/ or contact 1800 496 496.

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