"Tricked": A Review


Do you ever find yourself wishing you could get inside the minds of traffickers and victims alike? You’re not alone, but you are in luck. Tricked gives a close look at the lives and experiences of people involved in every aspect of the sex industry and leaves you with a greater understanding of all the levels involved. 

“When I look back I see that I was looking for love, and at that point in my life, love meant sex.” -Danielle, Survivor

Like Danielle, many victims of trafficking and forced prostitution are manipulated into finding a false sense of empowerment in their undoing. The 2013 documentary Tricked, created by Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson, highlights the complexities of the sex industry in America. By interviewing people from every aspect of the industry, including survivors, pimps, Johns (people who pay for sex), law enforcement officials, detectives, families of victims, and journalists, Tricked gives us a well-rounded idea of just how multifaceted this problem is. By taking a deeper look at the layers and roots that keep the 150 billion dollar industry running, Wells and Wasson take us on a 73-minute journey that is both heart-wrenching and hope-giving. 

Tricked features the stories of survivors like Danielle who talk openly about their journeys and what led them to trafficking and, eventually, freedom. At 17 years old, Danielle was studying at a university in Boston when she was “boyfriended” into the system. “Boyfriending” is when a pimp lures a girl in by treating her like a significant other would, making her feel special, and then flipping the switch through manipulation. In Danielle's case, He gave her love, affection, and gifts to make her feel wanted. Then, he convinced her she owed him something and forced her into years of prostitution. Most girls interviewed in the film had a similar experience and shouldered years of emotional turmoil between feeling loved and manipulated, wanted and abused.

If the fuel behind the sex industry is greed and money, the tools are abuse and manipulation. Combined, traffickers feel like they are untouchable and doubt they will ever be stopped by law enforcement. Sadly, this holds true to Danielle’s story, as she was arrested over 50 times while her pimp never once saw the inside of a jail cell. Tricked shows the perspectives of several pimps and Johns. Of those interviewed, all thought they were good people helping out the girls they were exploiting while making a profit. 

Law enforcement officers work hard on these cases, but lack of funds and trained individuals make it extremely hard to ever find justice. Often when traffickers are tried in court, none of their victims will stand to testify against them - a result of emotional manipulation. An issue this complex begs for a solution just as elaborate. LAPD Vice-Lieutenant, Karen Hughes, explains the need for other avenues than testimony to bring justice, which is why police departments have started partnering with the IRS, US Attorney's office, and FBI to take the assets of traffickers. As she says, “It’s all about money...When they make money, they make it on the backs of women.” Without wealth and material goods, the power of traffickers is shaken.

Director John-Keith Wasson, sex trafficking survivor Danielle Douglas, and Director Jane Wells at the "TRICKED" premiere in New York City. (Dec. 12, 2013 - Source: Mike Coppola)

Director John-Keith Wasson, sex trafficking survivor Danielle Douglas, and Director Jane Wells at the "TRICKED" premiere in New York City.
(Dec. 12, 2013 - Source: Mike Coppola)

Tricked is unique as a documentary because it gives a fair show of every different perspective of the trafficking industry in America. It exposes the emotional abuse and confusion involved for so many women, creating a blurred line between love and exploitation.

This documentary is also great for anyone wanting to understand what drives people to become traffickers. It can be hard to understand the drive to sell another human being for money, but it is explained by one pimp who says bodies are a “commodity.” Another mentions how he doesn’t worry about being caught or punished for selling women the same way he would worry if he were trafficking drugs. In a sense, he and many others have the idea that they are untouchable and will never be held accountable for their actions.

"This documentary exposes the emotional abuse and confusion involved for so many women, creating a blurred line between love and exploitation."

It’s a broken system we are living in, for sure, from the lies that lead young women to seek love in all the wrong places to the forces that blur lines and allow people to justify using and abusing women just for a profit, to the lack of funds and resources to put up the necessary fight against the whole thing. However, there is hope and Tricked also features some of the many dedicated and thoughtful individuals using their energy, resources, and voices to put a stop to trafficking. 

This documentary is a must-see for anyone trying to wrap their head around the confusing layers of the sex industry and will certainly add fuel to your fire in the fight towards freedom. 

You can view Tricked by following the links below, and find out more about the film here.


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About the Author

Mallory Mishler is a Michigander, studying Women’s and Gender Studies and Peace and Justice. She is passionate about using her voice to advocate for the freedom of all people, especially through creative mediums. When not writing, she can be found climbing mountains, caring for her plants, or painting on things that shouldn’t be painted.