Chris Allen, founder of the Innocence Atlanta campaign, defines sex trafficking as “Fraud, Force, and Coercion” (Spornhauer, 2011). This definition aptly places the blame of sex trafficking upon the johns and pimps who profit from the use of girls for sex. In most cases, however, the girls being trafficked are looked upon as the vermin of society. They are shunned and arrested and used up and tossed aside without regard to their humanity or rights, while the johns and pimps who degrade them get, not only anonymity, but also leniency for the crimes they commit against the young girls and women they rape, beat, and blackmail into submission and silence.
Thanks to women like State Attorney General Martha Coakley, the blame game is about to change, at least in Massachusetts. Based on an article by the Associated Press’ Steve LeBlanc, Coakley advocated for a bill that would change the way we look at sex-trafficking. Pushed by Oakley and sponsored by Senator Mark Montigny, Governor Deval Patrick recently signed a bill that cracks down on the real culprits of human trafficking: the johns, who establish the demand for sex slaves, and the pimps, who find and distribute girls by any means possible. The men who buy and sell human beings are the real culprits of this sex industry — not the girls and women who are forced into slavery.
As per LeBlanc’s article, for johns and pimps, the new anti-sex trafficking law will enforce the following penalties:
- pimps will receive up to 5 years in jail and a $25,ooo fine.
- those found to be trafficking children will receive a life sentence.
- companies that participate in or provide sex trafficking will be fined a $1 million fine.
- those who buy sex will receive a jail sentence of up to 2.5 years and a $5,000 fine.
- those who buy sex from a child under the age of 18, will receive a jail sentence of up to 10 years.
- these rules will be enforced upon those who use the internet to target children as well.
What is especially exciting about this new law is not only the fact that it punishes the perpetrators, but also that it attempts to provide aid for the victims. For them — the sacrificed, the bound, the raped, and the beaten — the new law gives them a voice and the justice that they deserve:
- a safe harbor and programs have been designed to help trafficked children move on and away from prostitution.
- victims can sue those who trafficked them in the first place.
While Massachusetts has it together on protecting the rights of trafficked victims, many other states do not. In a blog post from The Polaris Project, a site dedicated to creating awareness of human trafficking worldwide, James L. Dold, J.D. writes that the Polaris Project recently initiated a web conference with many states to discuss their anti-trafficking legislatures.
It wasn’t until Vermont’s Senator, Dick Sears, worked together with the Polaris Project, that Vermont even acknowledged having a sex trafficking problem. Because of this strong alliance, Vermont now has put in place anti-sex trafficking laws that protect the victims that is considered one of the best in our country. Before this, however, there was the misconception that sex slavery did not exist in Vermont.
In this same discussion, Jack Williams, representative of Alabama, was shocked to find out that Alabama did not have any anti-sex trafficking laws in place. This is shocking, but it is not the only state in our country that ignores the realities that take place in their streets. The Polaris Project provides a list of states here. Along with the help of other sex-trafficking organizations, it apparently becomes our job to get these states to pay attention to the growing epidemic of sex slavery that is taking place in our neighborhoods.
Atlanta, Georgia, according to The Signal‘s Brittany Spornhauer, “ranks as one of the foremost sex trafficking hubs in the country…[wherein] approximately 100 adolescent females are sexually exploited each night in Georgia.” Despite these numbers and the high number of men who solicit sexual services from trafficked girls, nothing else is being done to ensure the rights of these victims or to end this senseless slavery.
In a country in which these girls are perceived as the dregs of society — often poor minorities and runaways addicted to drugs — we don’t give much credence to their plight, reducing their experiences by calling them “sex workers” and prostitutes. We fail to observe that many of them are beaten and forced into this kind of brutal and isolating existence.
An excellent example of this is shown by NewsChannel5.com, in its discussion of Nashville, Tennessee’s growing awareness of sex slavery. Apparently, this concern was prompted by a study that showed some incredible results:
human sex trafficking has been reported in 78 of Tennessee’s 95 counties over the last two years. It’s a growing problem that targets minors, runaways and homeless teens.
The last portion of the news coverage shows an interview conducted by one victim who managed to run away and free herself, now studying in college, 6 years after she had been forced to have sex with at least 3 men a night when she was 16.During the interview she reveals how her abuser punished her for her attempts to run away:
There is a scar on my face because he took a potato peeler and took the skin off my face and ate it… and said, “you are mine forever.”
The fact that this happens in our country — where we celebrate daily independence, freedom, and opportunities — is unacceptable. It is a disgrace. While Massachusetts and Vermont, among a few other states discussed by the Polaris Project’s call for legislature to end sex trafficking, have shown empathy and regard for humanity by applying laws that aim to severely punish the perpetrators — the johns and the pimps — of these heinous acts, the rest of our country needs to stand up and say, “No! Not on our soil! Not our children!” Every single state must claim a stance against sex trafficking, or else they are no better than the men who exploit these young girls for money and power. Our children deserve better than to live in a country of privilege that allows — or looks away — when their bodies are being battered, drugged, and raped as if they do not exist.