Myths & Realities: Sex-Trafficking is not my Problem

We live in a pretty weird world these days. This past month in the celebrity world, the founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner, passed away. The response in the celebrity world was to praise this man for his edgy-work, bringing sex and sexuality to a common place where it was accepted. While there were some who spoke out about the misogyny and blatant sexual dominance that the Playboy-culture promoted, I found that about half of the articles put out there were in praise of this man and his life's work.


Then a week or so later, news breaks out that one of the largest producers in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein, has sexually abused/molested/harassed what is looking like dozens of women in the business. News outlets show outrage. Twitter is blowing up. Most of the coverage on this shows how upsetting this news is. Sexual abuse and harassment are not ok. Outrage exists and all is right in the world.


But have we missed something here? 


I cannot tell you how many times I share with someone about how sex trafficking exists right here in New England in our own backyards, and I receive stares of disbelief, and then a shoulder shrug and response that since they are not the one actually buying sex from a slave, this really isn't their problem. This is a myth.


Forgive me for a moment while I get a little soap-boxey. This is our problem. You might not be the buyer. You might not be the seller. You might not know a single boy or girl that this has happened to - but you are a card-carrying member of this society. And if we continue to shrug to evil saying that since we aren't the culprits in it we have no responsibility to stop it, then the evil will continue to invade every part of our lives, growing and expanding.


I get asked everyday how on earth an evil like trafficking could exist right here, and part of me wants to say Hugh Hefner existed for 50+ years and wasn't stopped. Hollywood is apparently a free-for-all for sexual predators (thank you to Emma Thompson for her use of this word) to prey upon women, exploiting their bodies in the exchange that this will advance their careers. And yes, you are not a playboy bunny, and you are not a Hollywood elite, but we are the ones living in the culture where these things have trickled down - where exploitation is veiled, misunderstood, and no longer as repulsive as it should be.


It is a myth to believe otherwise. It is a myth to believe that these things do not have an affect on me, my family, my friends, my work environment, my life. 


Let's face it, the world is flat. Social media, 24/7 news cycles, constant streaming of videos - we live in a world now where access and connection are inevitable. Unless you are going to live in a cave and off the grid completely, your world is being influenced by this. We might be appalled by the work and legacy that Hugh Hefner left; we might be outspoken about how sexual assault is an atrocity; but the reality is that if we don't start to connect the dots on what our society and culture is that we live and thrive in, then the connection between this world that we live in and the world where someone can be bought and sold for sex will continue to be lost. 


The truth is that I am responsible for this. I am not Hugh Hefner, and I am certainly not Harvey Weinstein. But I am a card-carrying member of society. I am a living member in a community. I am someone who wants freedom for myself. I am someone who wants to be loved and respected. I am someone who does not want to be objectified or exploited because of my sex. I am someone that wants to be seen for who I am, and not forced to be someone I am not.


The truth is that if I want this, then I am responsible for those who do not have it. This is what community is.


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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.