How I fell in love for a „pimp” or the prelude to misfortune

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„He asked me for nude photos, so I sent him some. Then we took some together. That’s when he started acting very differently. I’m ashamed to even tell you… One time I was at his place, we’d been there for a couple hours and then he started texting.

He kept talking about a coworker, and suggested that he come over. A few minutes later, said coworker makes his way into the room and I hear my boyfriend say “I’ll leave you alone for a bit, you know what to do.”

This is not a movie scene. It is the real story of a teenage girl, who would prefer to remain anonymous. She’s decided to share it with us, detailing the way she got caught up in human trafficking.

We’ll call her Maria. She’s a 19 year old girl who has recently gone through an earth-shattering experience and decided to give us an account of everything that happened. She starts by talking about an obsessive love.

While listening to her story, it became clear to us that she’d had to deal with a loverboy. Nowadays, the loverboy method is one of the most common ways in which young women are coerced into doing sex work „for love” and ” for family”.

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Let’s get to know Maria. Her so-called „love story’’ began when she was only 15. She will introduce us to the person that ruined her life, describing him in a detailed way that is easy to identify

„My parents made me go to the same high school they worked at. They weren’t teachers, they were just part of the school staff. I used to see them working in the schoolyard and I felt a bit ashamed of it at times. It was a prestigious high school and I studied really hard to get in so I could appease them.

My classmates and I couldn’t compare, they were from really rich families. I’d heard some pretty bad things about them, but I didn’t really have a take on it. So I got to work studying… There was no way I’d stand out otherwise. Not even the teachers would look at me.

That’s when I met him – he was in my year. He didn’t get into my high school on his own merits. He was a „bad boy,” you know? I wouldn’t go as far as to call him a rebel, but he was hanging out with this group the teachers and principal were keeping an eye on. I’d heard some rumors that his parents were pimps, but again, I didn’t really have a take on it

He was pretty alluring, he looked good –  you could see that he was well off. And don’t even get me started on his attitude. He’d always mess with the other kids in our year, but he had his limit. I was the kind of girl who believed in fairy tales – the „bad” boy who falls for the nice nerdy girl.”

And so it begins – Maria’s first love. It was just like a book or a movie – two very different people falling in love. The problem with stories, however, is that falling in love blindly can have very real and tragic consequences.

This situation isn’t about being blinded by love and the butterflies in your stomach taking your breath away. It’s about how these intense feelings can be used as a means of emotional, mental, psychological manipulation. This is what professionals are saying, and it’s being backed up by Maria as well. The teenager was overwhelmed by her feelings for the loverboy, who became her pimp.

Financial shortfalls and arguments at home – perfect pressure points

The young woman comes from a poor family. She also revealed that her home life wasn’t the best – her parents would always argue about money. Poverty had an impact on both her home life and school life. Her family was stuck in a vicious cycle they couldn’t get out of, until she found a way – dating the richest boy in school.

„My parents were very mean to each other. Sometimes they’d say mean things to me too – that I was good for nothing, that all I do is sit in my room and read. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. So I thought, “My parents think I’m a failure anyway, I might as well be rebellious.”

“So one evening I asked him to go out. We’d started high school about a month before and he kept texting me. He would ask about homework and attendance, since he was absent a lot. We ended up talking on the phone for hours.

I liked him because he was a cool guy that gave me attention. We’d talk all night and then he’d ignore me at school. He wouldn’t even say hello. I was drawn to that – him being all secretive, it was just like the movies. He’d make fun of the quiet kids, but he completely ignored me.”

After a heated argument with her parents, Maria agrees to go see her new classmate. She’d already developed feelings for him. That’s when she tells him about her home life, about the way her parents treat her and how powerless she felt. He listened, telling her that he understood what she was going through and that everything would be okay.

In those trying times, Maria regained her balance thanks to this person, who seemed to be kind and accepting. She didn’t even pay it any mind when he told her that he’d been by himself since he was 9 because both of his parents were in prison for pimping.

She listened to him talk about his life, and he led her to believe that he was also troubled due to his family issues. Even though he acted like a bad boy, she could see right through it – he was actually really deep and mysterious, and she felt understood. It was the perfect reason for her to fall in love with him, especially because she was the only one who knew what he was really like. At least that’s what he made her think.

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The image of the perfect student hid an exciting secret

„I was living a double life. We kept our relationship secret. No one at school knew about us and it made things all the more exciting for me. He would look at me when no one was watching – he had such a fire in his eyes, it made me feel like nobody else mattered, like we were the only people in the world.

Then I’d feel a twinge of shame about what I was feeling, there was a very strong energy between us. I was blindly in love with him, not to mention that he was very cool, and I thought I was the only person who truly knew him. I was the only one who knew about his troubled past and how much he’d suffered. They were all lies, obviously.

(…) No one caught on. He didn’t explicitly tell me to keep it between us, but what else was I going to do? He would ignore me when we were in public, so I figured he didn’t want anyone to know. I thought it was for the best anyway, people wouldn’t be okay with it if they knew, especially his friends, who wouldn’t have been very keen on someone like me dating someone like him.

Then I kind of took that to the extreme – I told myself that I loved him so much I needed to keep it from everyone.

“He told me that he wanted a girlfriend who would make him money”

Things changed after a while, as expected. The ball was in the young man’s court, and he knew that – he could do whatever he wanted to Maria, and she would bend to his will.

She loved him so much that he was everything to her. She’d see him everywhere, go anywhere with him.

He had become the center of her universe: she thought whatever he wanted her to think, she behaved in a way that would please him. She was under the impression that their love was one-of-a-kind, like something straight out of a famous novel.

Which is why she describes her feelings for him as an obsession. He was always on her mind, as abstract and philosophical as that might sound.

Meanwhile, he kept living his life as usual. He kept in touch with his friends who didn’t care about anything, and he had the same underachieving priorities. He was always distant towards Maria.

He didn’t get carried away, not that he had any reason to – he didn’t have any feelings for her. She’d become emotionally dependent on him because he kept his distance. Therefore, he didn’t make her do anything, she just chose to stay because she was scared of being left behind. 

Once he felt like Maria was ready to go to great lengths for their relationship, he put his plan into action. The fact that his family’s past didn’t get in the way must’ve been a factor as well. In her teenage naivety, she felt like nothing could hurt her when they were together.

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„He said he wanted a girlfriend who would make him money – that is, to make money abroad… I asked him, half-jokingly, if he would marry me. He said ‘Yeah, sure, let’s wait until we’re 18 and then we can get out of here.

Or we could ask our parents if they’ll let us get married.’ I said yes, but I didn’t have the guts to actually go through with it. He said he didn’t mind, that he’d love me anyway, and I’d be working to provide for my family. He told me it’d be better if we left together, we could earn our own money and settle down.

„He asked me for nude photos, so I sent him some. Then we took some together. That’s when he started acting very differently. I’m ashamed to even tell you… One time I was at his place, we’d been there for a couple hours and then he started texting.

He kept talking about a coworker, and suggested that he come over. A few minutes later, said coworker made his way into the room and I heard my boyfriend say “I’ll leave you alone for a bit, you know what to do.”

He was basically handing me over. Obviously I didn’t go through with it, I started crying, I was asking him ‘how could you do this?’. He kept asking me to stop making a fuss. Finally, his coworker left. I was so scared that everyone might find out about it. He assured me that it would stay between us.”

Maria pulled back for a while after that. Not that it bothered him too much. She completely ignored him for a couple months, she ignored his texts. She had such strong feelings for him and missed him so much that she couldn’t distance herself for good. So she ended up back at square one.

That was another reason why the young man believed Maria would never turn her back on him no matter what he did, especially since he didn’t show any remorse whatsoever. Maria was the one who couldn’t sleep at night, going back and forth between feeling betrayed and missing him deeply.

The emotional instability is there for a reason, a loverboy knows that confusion is key when it comes to manipulating the victim.  

Like parents, like children – pimp parents raised a loverboy son

She would soon learn the whole truth from him. He told her about his folks – both of his parents would recruit women and girls, forcing them into sex work, and they both went to prison for it.

After they got out, his dad figured out another way of recruiting people – the loverboy method. He was having an affair with a young Italian woman. His son was a chip off the old block.

„It was truly something else. During breaks, I would visit friends who were in different homerooms. Everywhere I turned, there were girls who were crying because of him. One time, I was with a friend in the schoolyard and she started crying when he walked by, because he was ignoring her. I hugged her and tried to make her feel better. She didn’t know the truth about him yet. He just walked past us without even giving us the time of day.”

He’d met a younger girl in our high school. She’d fallen for him and what do you know! She was giving him money. He had his way of making girls feel like they were special to him, like no one else matters. We kept talking about the future, how we’d go abroad and I would… Yeah. I found out way later that he’d made those same plans with everyone.”

„I was scared that he’d use the nudes to blackmail me.

After three years, Maria was in the same toxic relationship, believing the same false promises and that her partner would change, even though what he really wanted was for her to change. She was in for a rude awakening, which is exactly what she got. 

She was certain that he only really loved her, that the other girls were just flings that didn’t mean anything. Maria was convinced that she mattered to him and that he’d do anything for her. She was wrong, she was just a puppet that he was stringing along.

„I had a miscarriage. I was at school and I got sick out of the blue. I didn’t tell anyone. I just left school early and went to the hospital… That’s when I found out. It was a huge shock to me. I called him, since he was supposed to be there for me.

He’d been gambling, and he told me he couldn’t make it because he would be losing money. I couldn’t believe the only person who supported me was leaving me out to dry like that. I begged the nurses to let me go home, saying I couldn’t miss school. I was so scared. What was I going to tell my parents?

After leaving the hospital, I ran into a couple girls from my year. I barely even noticed them. They asked me what the matter was, and I started crying. But I didn’t tell them anything, just that I felt sick. I just kept it all to myself.

We had a fight that day. When I asked him why he didn’t come see me, he just said he didn’t care, that he was glad the issue had been fixed. It hurt so much to hear him say that and I just couldn’t get over it, it was like I’d forgotten who I even was at that point, but I understood one thing – he didn’t care about me, and he would never do anything for me.

I was afraid he might leak the photos. The thought of them making the rounds on social media and becoming the laughing stock of the school kept me up at night. He never actually blackmailed me, mind you, but having those pictures allowed him to pull the strings and keep me quiet. I was so scared… I thought I was going to be a disappointment.

I had nightmares about that day. At school, he would give me that same cynical look, as if nothing had happened. For him, things were uncomplicated. He only cared about himself. He’d ask to hang out whenever we were alone. I’d tell him, placatingly, to leave me alone, hoping he wouldn’t decide to leak my photos.

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Loverboy nostalgia, as dangerous as depression

Maria was lucky in one regard: their fight had happened near the end of 11th grade. Summer break meant she wouldn’t see him around at school. He’d gone to Italy with his dad. But it gave her time to think about the way he’d left her out to dry when she was dealing with something a teenager just doesn’t have the capacity to deal with on their own. She understood that he’d lied about everything.

Then there were the other girls she didn’t consider important, the ones that had also developed strong feelings for him. Thinking about them, Maria realized he had an effect on all the girls he came in contact with.

„I don’t know why I fell for it. I don’t know how he’s doing right now – I’ve blocked him on all platforms so I wouldn’t have to see him. I heard he’s staying abroad with his current girlfriend.

They left right after the BAC exam. He’s probably doing what he’d set out to do, he has a way with people. I think that young woman he’s dating is proud of herself for being there with him. She’ll see later when she realizes what he is. If she even comes to that conclusion.

Did I have a hard time getting over it? YEAH. It was really hard, because he was everything to me. My confidant, my best friend, my lover. I trusted him blindly and he left such a void in my life. I used to read the last texts he’d sent me every morning to remind myself how dismissive he was. I would sit in that hurt so I’d learn my lesson and never let myself become anyone’s puppet again.

I haven’t gone to therapy because I’ve been so afraid to talk about it. I looked for answers within myself. I kept telling myself that I can do this, that I’ll get far in life if I work hard enough, that I’m not small and worthless just because my family isn’t wealthy or tight-knit. I’ll make that happen one day. I think that for me the breakup had two different stages: at first, it was devastating, but then I found my footing and became stronger. I feel like I’m so driven today because I had nothing to lose at that point.

(…) Ah, senior year… Well, he was barely at school and he was with that other girl. He didn’t come to school at all and anyway he was already with the other girl. He forgot that I existed. Not that he used to pay me any mind when we were at school anyway. I wasn’t afraid of those photos being leaked anymore. He was working on his new target.

One thing I’ve been dealing with is this… nostalgia that I’m dealing with. I keep searching for him, I look for that vibe, that toxicity of his in every crowd, in every person I meet, and then I catch myself doing it and I stop myself. Ultimately, he was a means to an end, a necessary evil… He was leading me astray, but he was my home.’’ 

’’To all victims of the loverboy method, I want to say, ‘wake up.’’’

Drawing from her experience working with teenagers and young adults in this situation, psychologist Andreea Şipoteanu-Constantinescu spoke to us about Maria’s story and the loverboy method.

„I’ll start by saying that both Maria and the young man who manipulated her came from broken homes. Due to her background, Maria sought affection and safety in the person she loved. The loverboy method is common among teenagers, and most of the time the aggressors choose victims that fit a certain profile, as was Maria’s case: a shy, naive, sensitive and impressionable girl.

Traffickers have also changed their methods in recent years. Young women are no longer taken by force. Instead, they’re manipulated, seduced and persuaded into it.

Maria was attracted by the young man’s charm, his promises, the sweet and passionate words that would become the harshest lesson she’d have to learn.

While their relationship started with „emotional support,” it unraveled when Maria found out that she’d had a miscarriage. She’d lost two loved ones that day. She wasn’t ready to have them in her life, but their departure left a huge void in her heart.

’’As a psychologist, my opinion is that time heals all wounds, but the scar still remains. Maria has learned her lesson. She’s found the resources she needs to get over this terrible experience. To all victims of the loverboy method, I want to say, ‘wake up and seek professional help, and reach out to family so this doesn’t ruin your life.’’

Citește și varianta în limba română: Cum m-am îndrăgostit de un „pește” sau preludiul unei nenorociri

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Delia Musetescu
Delia Musetescu
Delia Mușetescu este reporter la Argeșul Online.

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