“The ‘loverboy’ method is used to manipulate future victims”, says Anca Luhas. She works in Romania with eLiberare to raise awareness among young people and train frontline workers in detecting sex trafficking situations.
Andrew Tate, a former kickboxer and social media influencer with a large following in Europe remains detained in Romania accused of sex trafficking and rape.
The British-American who likes to call himself “Top-G”, and his brother Tristan, have been charged by the Romanian authorities for forcing women into producing pornography. Several women who came in contact with them and their accomplices have denounced sexual aggressions and illegal detention.
The international headlines put again the focus on the sex trafficking mafias in Romania. Evangelical Focus asked Anca Luhas, the advocacy officer of eLiberare, an organisation fighting human trafficking in the country about the situation.
[photo_footer]Anca Luhas, advocacy officer of Romanian organisation eLiberare.
Question. How frequent is the reality of trafficked women for pornography production in Romania?
Answer. From the data collected by the Romanian National Agency Against Human Trafficking for the year 2021 (the latest national report), the criminal interest in human trafficking in recent years is more oriented towards the exploitation of women in prostitution and pornography.
Most child victims were exploited in Romania in 2021 through various forms of sexual exploitation, including being forced to produce sexually explicit images or content. 230 minors were sexually exploited in 2021, of which at least 105 were forced into pornographic representations. Even minor boys were exploited sexually, especially to produce pornographic representations (17 in total in 2021).
From the 382 victims of sexual exploitation identified in 2021, 89 cases were of child pornography, and 17 cases of internet pornography.
Q. Evidence seems to point to the fact that Andrew Tate and his accomplices (his brother and two other women) used the “loverboy” method to attract some women to his trafficking ring. What is it and how frequent is it?
A. In the “loverboy” method the recruiter initiates a friendly relationship with the victim, which then develops into a loving relationship and thus gains her trust.
The “loverboy” is charismatic and knows how to choose his victims from vulnerable groups, girls whose trust he can gain. He ends up being a support person for the victim and even for her family. The relationship between the two is natural to a point and can last for months or years.
Then the trafficker manipulates his victim mentally and emotionally and persuades her to do whatever he asks. The trafficker promises the victim that their situation is temporary until they can save enough money to get out of debt, buy a house or even get married. Whatever the promise, it’s a lie, because the end goal is for the trafficker to raise money for himself.
According to ANITP, the “loverboy” method and approaching victims via the internet, social media are increasingly used as techniques and tools for initial contact and subsequent manipulation of future victims. As in previous years, most victims receive false offers of work or collaboration from people known to them (73% of victims were recruited by people in their circle of acquaintances, work or school colleagues, close friends, neighbours or even relatives) while only 27% of victims were recruited by people they did not know.
[photo_footer]An awareness workshop conducted by eLiberare in school contexts. / Photo: Facebook eLiberare.
Q. What can be done against the influence of people like Tate with a large following on social media who spread a misogynist narratives that objectify women and promote pornography?
A. Our stance is to first of all build prevention in schools, where young people can be taught about the real dangers of the Loverboy method and how they can identify signs of exploitation.
At the same time, we are actively pursuing legislative amendments in the area of online sexual exploitation and abuse, especially as regards minors.
But this a constant work that should involve the entire society as regards the changing of mentalities, that is why we are constantly doing campaigns to educate the wider public (campaigns advertised in public means of transportation, schools, online).
[title]eLiberare: education, awareness, training
Romania is one of the main sources of women, men and children being exploited as humam trafficking victims throughout Europe.
Eliberare works in the areas of awareness, prevention, restoration and political lobbying. The group “co-chairs of the ProTECT Platform, encompassing 23 of the most active anti-trafficking organisations in Romania, through which we are doing most of our advocacy endeavours at the national level”.
They also do prevention in schools on the topic of human trafficking and train the key first responders in institutions in Romania and other categories of professionals that might come in contact with victims of human trafficking, contributing to capacity building for frontline workers (police, social workers, doctors).
So far, eLiberare has opened “four information, notification and referral centres in key cities in Romania where statistics on human trafficking are the highest. We also educated Ukrainian refugees and created safety plans to help them minimize the risks of human trafficking”, Luhas explains.
eLiberare is a member of the European Freedom Network.