WOMEN WILL ROAR: Sex Trafficking/ Sex Worker Stigma

Categories: Misc.
12/05/2017

When something that goes on every day under our noses receives no notice or media attention, there’s a problem. Have you ever heard of ‘sex trafficking?’ Sex trafficking is the highest form of trafficking, which is modern-day slavery revolved around sexual exploitation. There are at least 21 million victims in the sex trafficking industry globally, and there are at least 21 million voices going unheard. These victims undergo some of the most traumatic experiences you can face, yet no one knows about it. According to Polaris, there have been 4,460 human trafficking cases reported this year so far. How long will it take for those thousands of cases to be heard?

Within the world, sex is a taboo subject, with stigma all around the word– yet violence is normalized in 2017. The whole concept of sex work is the epitome of something to never mentioned, but not mentioning it won’t make it any less real. To stop sex trafficking, we must start from the basics: sex work- which can range from stripping all the way to prostitution. In most cases though, sex workers face a higher percent of violence due to the overwhelming stigma. Sex workers have a 45-75 percent chance of experiencing sexual violence. For every 5 police reports of sexual assault, 1 is from a sex worker. Just for what they do for a living, why should that justify these staggering statistics?

While most women are held victim towards the stigma, sex workers get the shortest end of the stick. If any progress can be made, it should lead to the decriminalization of sex work. Firstly, sex workers aren’t protected by many laws domestically, ranging from rape shields to safe harbors, which leads to even more fear being instilled. With nearly every rape victim, they’re covered by ‘rape shields laws’, a law that prevent disclosure of evidence relating to sexual reputation and history. Sadly, this isn’t the case for most sex workers. In most states, judges can overrule the rape shield laws and divulge the fact that they’re prostitutes in a court of law. Along with lack of rape shields, sex workers are often not eligible for ‘rape victim compensation funds.’ Lastly, the biggest problem linked to sex trafficking is the fear from victims coming out about what’s going on. Most sex trafficking cases aren’t reported mostly based off of fear of law enforcement, because no matter how wrong trafficking is most states still classify it as prostitution and victims will be charged. They could be detained for prostitution despite ‘safe harbor laws,’ which would normally prohibit it. Therefore, they stay silent, from the people sworn to protect people they call equals. Isn’t it sick that the judicial system doesn’t practice what they preach on equality? Where’s the justice in that?

If you haven’t already figured why the sex trafficking industry is a problem, then get ready. Studies show that 1 in every 6 runaways are endangered of being the 4,461st case. As a whole, the global economic intake on sexual exploitation is around $150 billion. A lot of local police don’t deem it a problem. Because why would a horrible act that happened to over 21 million people worldwide affect our small town? News flash, it can happen to anyone. Sources show that Atlanta is a hub with over $290 million coming in from the sex-trafficking market. It’s happening all over the world, and it’s happening in your back yard.

Now you know the facts, it’s time you know the accounts. There are countless stories of the atrocities these survivors went through every day. Throughout their days, victims experienced regular daily degradation of their wellbeing through constant isolation, intimidation, being sold off, physical assault, sexual assaults, and so on. Many face countless mental health disorders like PTSD, disassociation; and sexual infections like HIV/AIDS. Many women have reported becoming pregnant and undergoing unsafe abortions multiple times, because their owners won’t let them go where they’ll be noticed. Imagine being so silenced, so constricted, that you couldn’t go anywhere without feeling the gut wrenching taste of fear throughout your body.

To make any progress, education and awareness are the first steps. The next is understanding how to put this information to good use. Firstly, it is critical to implement legal safeguards to ease poverty and lessen exploitative options. Secondly, sex work needs to be decriminalized in all standings. Many countries like Norway, Canada, and Ireland have taken the initiative, when will the US step up? Thirdly, tackle sex tourism. Lastly, confront sex trafficking from there on a case by case basis.

It’s that simple, but we can’t make any progress if we don’t decriminalize sex work in the US. The survivors who shared their stories got out, but there are millions still walking around with their “owners’” hands over their mouths. It’s time to rip those hands off and hear them roar.

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Delilah Gray is a Journalism Major with double minors in Political Science and Women’s Studies at Hofstra University. She hopes to also get her Masters in Education as soon as she graduates. Whatever she does with her life, she wants to work on journalism, activism, and help people. She enjoys body-painting, writing short stories, exploring nature, going on road trips, writing articles all about social justice, and reading.