A hard-to-read New York Times Magazine article describes the sexual slavery industry in the USA today There’s a lot to get pissed off about here, but near the top of the list is that the US could be doing a lot more to halt sexual slavery….
”This is not narco-traffic secrecy,” says Sharon B. Cohn, director of anti-trafficking operations for the International Justice Mission. ”These are not people kidnapped and held for ransom, but women and children sold every single day. If they’re hidden, their keepers don’t make money.”
I.J.M.’s president, Gary Haugen, says: ”It’s the easiest kind of crime in the world to spot. Men look for it all day, every day.”
But border agents and local policemen usually don’t know trafficking when they see it. The operating assumption among American police departments is that women who sell their bodies do so by choice, and undocumented foreign women who sell their bodies are not only prostitutes (that is, voluntary sex workers) but also trespassers on U.S. soil. No Department of Justice attorney or police vice squad officer I spoke with in Los Angeles — one of the country’s busiest thoroughfares for forced sex traffic — considers sex trafficking in the U.S. a serious problem, or a priority. A teenage girl arrested on Sunset Strip for solicitation, or a group of Russian sex workers arrested in a brothel raid in the San Fernando Valley, are automatically heaped onto a pile of workaday vice arrests.
I wish I had some interesting feminist theory to offer here, but really I don’t have anything to say besides: [some] people suck. I recommend reading the entire article, although there’s a lot in there which is sickening.
UPDATE: But then again… It’s unfortunate that I focused on the numbers here, because (as this Slate article, cited in comments by “Patrick O,” argues) the numbers given in the Times article may be badly exaggerated. Slate argues that the real numbers are essentially impossible to know:
On the other hand, I’m don’t find Slate’s primary argument – “if it happened, then the police would be busting slave houses more often” – very convincing. I can see dozens of drug dealers and prostitutes any night by just walking through the right neighborhood, and I’m sure the police know of them. If we accept Slate’s logic, that must mean the dealers and streetwalkers don’t exist. Merely because the police know of something doesn’t mean that they will priortize it. Furthermore, the number of locations suggested by the article – dozens in New York City, hundreds nationwide – is actually not fairly small, compared to the scale of (respectively) NYC and the United States.
Slate is correct to point out that some of the anecdotes in the Times article are hard to buy – in particular the description of prostituted women and girls in Vista, California smacks of overelaboration. From Slate:
If that’s how San Luis Rey River works, one would imagine that the health worker then blew the whistle, the cops raided the reed brothel, and people went to jail or were deported. Maybe those events transpired, and maybe they didn’t. Landesman doesn’t say! Instead, he writes, “It was 8 in the morning, but the girls could begin arriving any minute.” The reader naturally expects Landesman to stake out the site with the deputy, but instead the scene terminates.
As Corwin suggests in my comments, such stories bring the McMartin preschool trials to mind. It would be a much better article had the Times writer ever exhibited skepticism. On the other hand, just because the writer was probably fed some hooey by a California cop doesn’t mean the entire article is junk.