Myths & Realities: What is Sex Trafficking?

Most days I educate at least one more person on what sex trafficking is. Trafficking has become such a hot topic, but the reality is that even with this word being used more and more by the media and politicians, very few understand the reality of what this is. We want to breakthrough some of the common myths that we encounter here in New England in a series called Myths & Realities

 

For this piece, I would like to tackle the myth surrounding the basic definition of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion by one individual over another individual in order for them to be sold for sexual acts where the goods, money, etc. are being handed over to the enforcer and not the person that actually provided the service of the sexual act. There are thousands of different stories on how this happened to the person; thousands of places around the world where this is happening right now; millions of stories of this act taking place. The basic of what this boils down to is that there are three people present:

  • The Trafficker (Pimp)

  • The Trafficked (Victim)

  • The Buyer (John)

The trafficker forces, coerces, or flat-out uses fraud to make the trafficked person perform sexual acts with the buyer. Money is exchanged, and might end up in the hands of the trafficked person for a period of time, but that money is eventually passed along and kept by the trafficker. 

 

The myth I want to tackle today is the common response that I get when I explain what trafficking is to people. I often hear, "So, this is just prostitution then?"

 

This response tends to bring my blood pressure up a bit. No matter how the person intended to say this question, I often here it with this emphasis: "So.... this is JUST prostitution then?"

 

Here is why my blood pressure tends to rise, because that response shows that somehow there is an acceptance of prostitution, whether there is coercion or not. I mean, after all, I've heard it said again and again that "prostitution is the oldest profession." Since we live in the land of the free, somehow this profession has become ingrained into our culture. It might be a seedy profession, but it is common place among some people. But it doesn't affect my world.

 

Yes, my brain tends to work quite quickly, and I definitely assume a lot about that person in the moment and what they must be thinking to say this - I do confess. 

 

Sex trafficking is NOT JUST PROSTITUTION. Prostitution is an act. It is the act of selling one's body for any sort of sexual encounter to another. The act of prostitution occurs when sex trafficking is happening, but the act of prostitution also occurs when someone has chosen to do this without being forced by a trafficker. They both exist. 

 

The myth is that sex trafficking is somehow JUST prostitution.

 

The reality is that sex trafficking is debilitating... 

It is horrifying...

It is prevalent...

It is closer than you realize...

It is affecting more people than you know...

It is not a choice...

It is not someone's career goal...

It is not a way any one should have to live...

It is systemic...

It is evil...

 

It is all of these things, but most of all the reality of sex trafficking is that it is not the final word. It is beatable. It can be stopped. And those who have lived through the horror of it can have a chance at a new life. This is reality.

 

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We are grateful for the partnership of the Women's Fund of Essex County as we work together to promote solutions for survivors of sexual exploitation.