What’s Your Definition of a Pimp?

by Diane Dimond on May 19, 2013

 (See Update on this story at the end)

Danielle Douglas, Former Sex Trafficking Victim

Danielle Douglas had a wonderful Mother’s Day – breakfast out, a trip to the zoo with her husband and two children, snuggly nap time and the gift of a colorful necklace and brooch.

This New Jersey resident looks like a modern-day young mother. She works at a pharmaceutical company and in her spare time she experiments with fashion statements – different haircuts and color and fanciful makeup to accentuate her beautiful hazel eyes. 

But Danielle, 30, is far from typical. She is a survivor of human trafficking, victimized during her teen years by a vicious pimp who turned her out as a prostitute in the Boston area. Those violent years and how she survived is the subject of an upcoming documentary called, “10,000 Men” to be released later this year. 

Today, Danielle is a woman with a mission.

Sex Slaves Are Held Nationwide

On the heels of news about the House of Horrors in Cleveland where three young women were held as sex slaves for more than a decade, Danielle is pushing for heightened awareness about how pervasive human sex trafficking is – nationwide.  For Danielle words matter.

“We have to start by changing the vocabulary that defines the crime,” she told me.  And for Danielle,  “It all begins with the pimp.”

For Danielle that was the man who conned her, imprisoned her in a home with other women, brought in streams of strange men and allowed her only a few supervised phone calls home to her worried family. He lived off her labor.  When she balked he became violent.

Recently, Danielle turned to a dictionary to look up the word “pimp” and was floored at the milk-toast, turn-of-the-century definition she found in her Merriam-Webster: “A man who solicits clients for a prostitute.”

Up to Date Definitions? Afraid Not

“This is like a 1920’s definition!” she said. “Anyone who works with the problem of human trafficking knows that isn’t even close to what a pimp is! (There is) … nothing about the violence they perpetrate and what they actually do to people,” she said with anger in her voice. “I decided, I’ve got to start a petition about this. We have to get real!”  

Danielle’s on-line petition calls for Merriam-Webster to understand that, “Pimps use fear, force, and coercion to abduct human beings. They are usually violent and abusive, and can use various tactics to keep the human beings under their control.” She asks the dictionary keepers, “How can we expect people to understand sex trafficking when the definition of one of the main aspects is incorrect?” 

My repeated messages to Merriam-Webster in Springfield, Massachusetts were ignored.  But Danielle is a determined sort.  She told me she finally got past the tape-recorded phone system and got a man in marketing on the phone. She calmly explained that she would like to discuss changing the definition of a word. 

“He told me they only change definitions when they aren’t current anymore. And (that) ‘We decide what needs changing.’” Danielle was told that the brainiacs at Merriam-Webster scour the internet to study current word usage and that is what determines whether changes are made. 

Human Trafficking is a Global Problem

Gee, a quick Google search and I was able to find pages of information about physically violent and mentally abusive pimps identified in scholarly human trafficking studies. It took me no time to learn about the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 which equates pimps to slave owners.

Let’s not overlook the fact that many pimps sell defenseless children. On the Justice Department’s web site I found more than 115 recent entries by simply searching the words, “Sex trafficking + pimps + children.” 

The folks at Merriam-Webster may not know the term “pimp” means a lot more than just, “A man who solicits clients for a prostitute,” but we know. So, let’s take up the education campaign where the dictionary has faltered. 

Armed with the knowledge of what a pimp really is – a modern day slave owner of women and children – let’s all do our part to make sure another Cleveland-like situation isn’t happening right under our noses.

Exact victim numbers are impossible to know but a recent message from Congress estimates, “Every year as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. from over 50 countries.” That doesn’t even count missing or exploited American citizens. 

Castro Held 3 as Sex Slaves for a Decade!

Obviously, the Cleveland monster, Ariel Castro, 52, was not your run-of-the-mill pimp but his brutality toward women had been well documented in a string of domestic violence complaints dating back to 1989.

In 2004, police went to his home after he was accused of mistreating a child on his school bus but no one answered and police never tried to speak to him at the house again. More recently, when neighbors say they called in a report of seeing a naked woman chained in his backyard Castro should have already been on law enforcement’s radar even though none of the numerous complaints against him ever wound up in court. 

Things won’t get better until we all get involved. Neighbors? Make it your business to know what’s going on at that spooky house down the block. Call police with your suspicions because there is no telling what – or who – they might find behind those blacked out windows. Call more than once if you have to.  

To law enforcement, I say: More awareness training, please, so officers don’t just stop-and-knock but actually ask to come inside for a routine welfare check – of all rooms of the house. And to politicians: How about some tougher anti-pimp laws to insure it isn’t just the prostitute that gets arrested?

And while I’ve got your attention – why not sign Danielle’s petition? Words matter and true definitions enlighten. 


 UPDATE: On May 23, 2013 Danielle Douglas became victorious!  Merriam-Webster wrote to Danielle and declared,

“Thank you for your message regarding the definition of “pimp.” We agree that the current definition is in need of updating and are researching the matter further. We expect the definition to be changed when the dictionary is next revised. Thank you again for helping to bring this matter to our attention.

Merriam-Webster Editorial Department”

Who says you can’t fight City Hall? My suggestion to Merriam-Webster is:  why wait to provide to become current in the next revised publication? How’s about changing the definition of “pimp” right now in the on-line dictionary?  ~ DD

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tami May 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Shame on the rap culture for glamorizing pimps and ho’s and acting like they’re just the folks you see down the street


Dana May 22, 2013 at 8:00 am

Nor this woman or the Ohio captives were sex slaves! They were not sex slaves. They are victims of being kidnapped and victims of rape!
As this woman states; the two words are not interchangeable!
Please read. http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/05/21/the-rescued-women-in-cleveland-were-not-sex-slaves-they-were-raped/
Please read!


Diane Dimond May 23, 2013 at 11:08 am

Well, Dana,
I’m just going to disagree with you and the person who wrote in the link you provided. Pimps don’t just get customers for prostitutes. They CREATE prostitutes, sometimes literally kidnapping young women and children and using violence and intimidation to keep them working. Worst of all they profit off their victims labor. Sickening. ~ DD


Diane Dimond May 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

Friend Glendene Grant writes:
“I have signed the petition with this comment — Because my
daughter, Jessie Foster, is the victim of human trafficking …
lured, tricked, sold – all by a pimp. And he sure was not
soliciting clients for her … he was beating her (she was
hospitalized with a broken jaw) to ensure she did exactly as he
told her to.”


Diane Dimond May 23, 2013 at 11:06 am

Friend Maureen Reintjes writes:

“Excellent article Diane! No other comments are posted yet so
to help generate much needed conversation on this subject I’ll
throw out my not very well formed definition of a pimp: An
individual or group of individuals who physically and mentally
abuse their victims, hold their victims against their will for
the purpose of making money off them as sex and/or labor slaves
or for their own personal reasons keeping their victims in
bondage to abuse and torture at will. Rape, torture, bondage,
beatings, drugging, soliciting, threatening their victim’s
lives and their victim’s family’s lives and many other criminal
activities are perpetrated on their victims including forcing
their victims to commit crimes. Victims can be male or female
and of any age,race and socioeconomic status. —– I thought
I could come up with a definition but I think it could easily
become more of a book. It will be interesting to see what
others come up with.”


CLS May 25, 2013 at 3:37 am

After reading the horrifying story about the sex slaves in Cleveland and then reading Danielle’s story, I agree: The word “pimp” needs to be changed, in the dictionary. As someone who once worked as an editor, I am somewhat amused, at the painstaking labor that occurs when dictionaries are revised. But in the case of this particular word, the editing process needs to move quicker. Much quicker.


Diane Dimond May 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Huffington Post Reader mikhailsharon writes:

“Rapist should just … die … I wonder if that is too extreme. But I do hate the rapes and historically the punishment for rape is death so I suppose it’s fair? I mean this is an opinion and all so to hate the rapist to the point of death is fair right? Rape is a special kind of evil right?”



Diane Dimond May 25, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Huffington Post Reader 6fivedot writes:

“A pimp is a slaver and a white slaver. The use of the term Pimp is a modern day definition of a comedic or entertaining character. Enter the average nice guy pimp in TV sitcoms, movies and a host of other entertainment venues. “Huggy Bear” i.e. The actuality is much different as these “Pimps” are criminal animals who prey on the most vulnerable and innocent in society.
Predators of flesh who enslave young girls and boys into a life of the worst imaginable sort.
For the last 50 yrs I had seen the so called fight to right the wrongs of former enslavement of an entire people but seems Pimps made it thru the cracks of societal scrutiny and political correctness? In fact the ones who screamed loudest are the same who not only dismiss this cruelty in their little worlds but in many cases celebrate this horrendous behavior and criminal acts upon humanity to be entertained with a laugh?”


Sara May 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Hi Diane,
First let me say this:
Always loved your writing, you have wrote two controversial books, I wish you would take the time write one covering all the trials you have done?
That’s a hint.
This story about Danielle Douglas; this is the first I heard of her and I must say it is sad but had a good ending. Just think of the girls who don’t turn out like her; I could not imagine going through a thing of sort. What a brave young lady Danielle is; maybe with in time Danielle can reach out to the kidnap victims.
It makes me sick to think how many people or agencies will reach out to the kidnap victims for their own motives. It also bothers to know while some media outlets claim to be sympathetic, at the same time the families beg for privacy while media trucks are still parked out side their homes. That’s another story, I could go on and on but will spare you all.
FYI: This is to any Ariel Castro Supporters, Diane Dimond is not responsible for my opinions, these are more words, therefore, this is my term I use for the brave young ladies, I refuse to say; “Alleged victims”

Thanks for taking time to read if you do.


Sara May 25, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Agree Diane!
Take the word “sex” off of slaves. A slave is a slave. These woman weren’t .. Okay. I won’t go there.

As far as we know; Amanda, Michelle and Gina were not auctioned off as by Ariel for profit but they still were slaves. They were raped by Ariel and most likely had to barter for necessities such as: food, to live, i’m thinking to even be able to shower as well. I am sure that baby was used as a bartering tool also. Sick.

Whatever we think they should be called is not important to me.


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