'Loverboy' pimps: what’s love got to do with it?

RNW archive

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New-style pimps known as ‘loverboys’ have put the small Dutch town of Veenendaal in the limelight, after a TV documentary exposed their activities.

Loverboys are young men who befriend vulnerable girls, woo them into a sexual relationship, then coerce them into having sex with other men in exchange for financial and other rewards. Which the loverboys keep for themselves.

[media:factfile]It’s already a well-known phenomenon in the Netherlands. But TV documentary Dossier Loverboy aired by public broadcaster NTR at the weekend revealed how these young predatory pimps are affecting one small town - Veenendaal - at the heart of the Netherlands. The programme shocked the local authorities into action. They promptly called a meeting on Monday to discuss the problem with the police and representatives of campaign group StopLoverboys.nu.

But young people in the town and Anita de Wit of StopLoverboys.nu say the problem is far from new to Veenendaal.

One loverboy victim claims that at least 30 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 have been ‘recruited’ by a gang of these youths, according to free daily Spits. The police have also received alarming reports about the scale of the loverboy network in the area, the paper adds.

Anita de Wit hopes the local authorities will now take real action to tackle the problem. If not, she says, “I’ll be knocking on their door again. The lid has to come off this cesspit.”

She partly puts Veenendaal’s loverboy problem down to the strictness of the town’s large Protestant Christian community – although not all the victims come from religious backgrounds.

“Many things are taboo here. As a result of their upbringing the local girls sometimes aren’t aware of all the various aspects of sex. On the other hand, you have a large group of young boys of Moroccan origin who know everything about the subject. Put those two groups together and it’s got to go wrong, big time. This has been going on here for years.”

“Because it’s taboo to talk about it [sex], those boys can operate at will,” says the documentary’s maker Roy Dames.

Young people in Veenendaal told Spits that loverboys approach their potential victims in person on the streets, near schools for example. They also use social networking websites, where they may first make contact by ‘liking’ a young girl’s photo.

One 15-year-old says her parents have banned her from cycling to school because of the loverboy threat. But travelling by bus hasn’t proved to be a much safer alternative: “They spend more time hanging around the bus stop than they do waiting next to the bike tunnel.”