Last week police discovered a sex slave ring in a Brisbane home, where women aged 17-24 were recruited, drugged, branded, prostituted and filmed by Matthew James Markcrow, 35, and his partner Crystal Marie Sawyer, 23.
Four women were found following a search of the home with “Property of Matt M” tattooed on their bodies. Police say that the young women were from troubled backgrounds and had been targeted by Markcrow and Sawyer via social media.
Police believe there are more victims who they have encouraged to come forward.
The pair were arrested and appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 5 February after a four-month investigation. Markcrow faces 10 charges, including conducting a business involving servitude, conducting unlawful prostitution, possessing drugs and tainted property, and breaching privacy. Sawyer faces three charges, including conducting a business of unlawful prostitution.
The case has shocked even police, with Detective Inspector Juliet Hancock of the Prostitution Enforcement Taskforce stating:
“We’ve been shocked by this, we didn’t think this was happening in Australia, let alone Brisbane. It’s something that you see that’s happening overseas…it’s quite hard to shock police. This is quite horrendous offending.”
This case is indeed “shocking” and “horrendous”. However, it is worth considering the parallels between this instance of sexual slavery, and the sexual slavery that is found in the prostitution industry more widely where women from vulnerable backgrounds are habitually preyed upon, exploited, treated like “property”, and often rely on drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.
It may be said that the difference in legal prostitution is “choice”, which these women didn’t have, but what kind of “choice” is it really when you come from a background of abuse, poverty or other form of marginalisation?
Who would freely “choose” subjecting themselves to physical and sexual violence, as well as associated health traumas including STIs, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorders, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and suicidality?
We must end all forms of sexual slavery and exploitation.