The Horrifying Reality of Sex Trafficking

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Concerned Women for America’s (CWA’s) 25th anniversary convention in September 2004 included a panel with Senior Fellow Janice Shaw Crouse of the Beverly LaHaye Institute and Tanya Ditty, CWA’s Georgia state director, on the horrors of sex trafficking. At the end of the discussion, the audience submitted questions to the panel. Regrettably, due to the limited time and over whelming audience response, the panel was unable to answer all of the many questions. Therefore, Dr. Crouse agreed to answer the remaining questions on our Web site. Below is a synopsis of the information the panel covered and the remaining questions. (Since more than 40 questions were submitted, we combined similar ones.)


What is trafficking?

Trafficking is modern-day slavery. The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, defines it as: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

Sex traffickers lure victims from their poverty-stricken homes with the promise of good jobs, marriage or educational opportunities but then force them into slave labor or prostitution. Others are sold by their parents or spouses looking for compensation. Once transported to the destination country, the victims are imprisoned, beaten, raped and convinced they have nowhere to flee. Their passports are confiscated; usually, they don’t speak the language and have no idea where they are located.

It is estimated that 600,000-800,000 men, women and children are trafficked internationally each year; another 2-4 million are transported within countries. Women compose 80 percent of those trafficked, 50 percent are children, and 70 percent of those women and children are used for sexual exploitation. The U.S. State Department estimates that 14,500-17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually.

Questions From Audience

You say this is big business-why doesn’t it get as much attention as drug trafficking and what is the United States doing to prevent sex trafficking?

This issue has gained increasing awareness under the Bush administration, which has established a State Department office to oversee efforts to combat trafficking worldwide, has increased efforts to prosecute traffickers in the United States, and has designated funding to eradicate sex trafficking. The administration has committed $50 million to support organizations that are rescuing women and children from exploitation, and giving them shelter and medical treatment and the hope of a new life.

The State Department is releasing the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report annually and continues to increase the scope of the report. The report now evaluates nations within three tiers, depending upon their compliance with legislation and effectiveness in combating trafficking. Adopting several suggestions from Concerned Women for America, the report now profiles heroes who help trafficking victims, protecting them or helping them to restore their lives after the abuse and horrific crimes against them. It also includes pictures from numerous countries to help personalize the crime for people who knew little about this underworld criminal activity.

Congress enacted bills to fight trafficking, such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the Domestic Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2004, and the Protect Act of 2003. CWA actively lobbied for all of these bills.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rescue and Restore campaign began with three cities among them Atlanta, where Tanya Ditty, state director for CWA of Georgia, is the point person. The program has expanded and is now active in Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Newark, Tampa, San Francisco and Milwaukee, and actively battles trafficking. They provide shelter, counseling and other services for victims and work to increase awareness of the atrocities of trafficking. The Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline has answered 1,171 calls from worried citizens, social service providers and possible victims.

What stance have President Bush and Democratic Party leaders taken on trafficking?

This issue has unified political parties, conservatives and liberals. Groups from all aspects of the ideological spectrum are working together to end trafficking. Various groups agree on the problem; however, they take different approaches. These approaches are based on different philosophical, ideological, moral or faith-based foundations.

The Bush administration targets all three aspects of trafficking: the supply, the traffickers and the demand. The supply side addresses the conditions that drive trafficking. Programs are implemented that alert communities to the dangers of trafficking, improve educational opportunities and school systems, promote equality of rights, educate targeted communities on their legal rights, and create better and broader life opportunities for possible victims.

At the trafficking level, law enforcement programs identify and interdict trafficking routes, clarify legal definitions and coordinate law enforcement responsibilities, prosecute traffickers and those who aid and abet them, and fight public corruption that facilitates and profits from the trade.

The demand aspect works to identify and prosecute traffickers. Programs are implemented to bring awareness in destination countries to make it harder for trafficking to be concealed or ignored.

The Democratic Party is also committed to ending trafficking; however the two parties differ in their attitudes about prostitution. The Democratic Party supports legalizing prostitution to end trafficking. The Bush administration adamantly opposes this approach; President Bush has stated in several speeches most notably in one at the United Nations that “prostitution is inherently harmful to women.” He has stipulated that no grants will be given to groups that support abortion or prostitution. Further, the prosecution of criminals in trafficking has dramatically increased under the Bush administration, as have programs to assist the victims.

What studies are being done to prove that legalized prostitution increases sex trafficking?

The State Department’s TIP report confirms that through research by academic, scientific and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) there is a “direct link between prostitution and trafficking.” Prostitution “contributes to trafficking in persons by serving as a front behind which traffickers for sexual exploitation operate,” the report states. The International Organization for Migration estimates that 500,000 women are annually sold into prostitution in Europe.

Research shows that legalizing prostitution does not remedy the problem of sex trafficking but rather increases it. Where prostitution is legalized, the price for sexual services includes medical examinations, brothel rent and registration fees. In efforts to circumvent these fees, a black market for prostitution emerges. The black market provides cheaper prices, and pimps do not need to adhere to the health codes or age limits the countries set into place.

All of this information, of course, is logical. In the more developed nations, girls and women do not usually choose to go into prostitution because they have opportunities; in addition, they are usually protected so only runaway girls and others in vulnerable situations are in danger of getting lured into the trap of pimps and johns. Thus, the traffickers go to countries where destitute people are looking for a chance to improve their lives. They are prey to the unscrupulous criminals who lure, entrap, lie, ensnare and seduce the unsuspecting and vulnerable children and women. They take them into an isolated place, steal their passports and beat them into submission, so that they will do anything they are told.

Countries with legalized prostitution have three to 10 times as many non-registered women prostitutes as registered prostitutes. Many non-registered women are victims of sex trafficking.

Does research prove that pornography is behind this because so many people think that pornography is harmless?

The Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children both recognize that pornography is an element that adds to the serious problem of sex trafficking. Many traffickers are found with filming equipment and cameras to create and sell pornography. Increasingly, pornographers are seeking younger and younger girls and boys for their films and pictures; thus, they have to go where the children are unprotected and vulnerable to capture.

If porn fuels demand, what, if anything, is being done to curb Internet porn?

The Department of Justice has expressed its intent to prosecute major pornographic Internet companies that violate decency laws; their reports indicate a significant increase in prosecutions. One company, Extreme Associates, is currently being prosecuted and other investigations are underway. For more on this topic, including CWA’s concerns over enforcement and ways for citizens to encourage enforcement, see DOJ Busts Internet Web Site for Obscenity and Porn Industry Moans for Good Reason.

Can you address the fact that sex slavery is alive and well on our military bases and in American industry?

Sex trafficking in the military began to rise during the Vietnam War. During the war the military base in Fayetteville, North Carolina, became known as “Fayettnam” due to the large numbers of Asian prostitutes trafficked to the base.

An advocate against trafficking reported that sex trafficking in the military is directly linked to servicemen who marry prostituted women from around military bases in foreign countries. They bring these women to the United States and hand them over to work as prostitutes around military bases. These international wives lack the education and working and language skills to understand their rights.

Reports from social services say that American military wives directly prostitute the foreign women around military bases.

During the Bush administration, new laws have put stringent restrictions on the military’s involvement in prostitution, punishing personnel who engage a prostitute. There is an understanding that prostitution feeds sex trafficking and an understanding that the behavior of our military in other nations reflects on the reputation of the entire United States.

Where do the “30 men a day” (that some of the victims are forced to serve) come from?

Men in the United States who solicit the service of sex slaves come from all socio-economic classes and range from the ages of 15-90, reports the Coalition Against Trafficking Women. The specific “30 a day” reference came from a ring that was caught near San Diego, where migrant workers were laboring in strawberry fields. The ring trafficked girls from Mexico who provided “service” for the migrant works in the “nests” laid out in nearby “reed fields.”

Once rescued, what happens to the victims of trafficking?

There are a number of programs within the United States to aid victims of trafficking. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) offers victims support, protection services and education resources to trafficking victims and victim service providers.

Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) provides grant funding to several NGOs and service providers who offer direct assistance to trafficking victims.

The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program, under HHS, assists juvenile victims of trafficking.

However, international rescue efforts may not provide long-term security. Many countries are unable to protect victims due to lack of adequate facilities and many are deported because they lack documentation. These victims are often re-trafficked and subjugated to further abuse.

Dr. Crouse, where can I learn more about what is going on in this issue?

Concerned Women for America (CWA) is firmly committed to the “abolition” effort and continually lobbies to strengthen laws against trafficking and to bring awareness to this issue. I work on two different national coalitions to end trafficking and write about this problem regularly. CWA’s Web site stays updated on the latest efforts to fight trafficking and is a good education resource. The State Department is also a good resource to learn about sex trafficking and measures taken to combat it.

How can I become involved on a local level?

It is important to increase awareness about the horrors of sexual trafficking. The best approach is to teach our own girls how to protect themselves. Young women must be educated that, contrary to the feminist myth, girls are more vulnerable than guys. These criminals especially prey upon female runaways. The traffickers know how to spot vulnerable young women and coerce them into prostitution. They hang around malls, train and bus stations and other places where teenagers congregate and they are experts at spotting the most vulnerable of our children.

Also, work to get your local civic groups involved in spotting possible victims and reporting suspicious activity to local police. Traffickers know where to hide and not be suspected.

What can I do if I suspect someone is a victim of trafficking?

The Rescue and Restore program with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a Trafficking and Information and Referral Hotline, 1.888.373.7888, which connects victims of trafficking to NGOs who can help victims in their local area.

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