Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Demand for Exploitation: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the US

The Demand for Exploitation: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the US is an academic paper written by Kathleen Richter in 2009. It argues that in order to decrease minor sex trafficking in the United States, prostitution needs to be decriminalized and the solicitation of sex and the use of a prostituted woman’s services should be criminalized at a federal level[i].  She argues that the current laws and practices are discriminatory towards women and children victims of domestic sex trafficking.  This blog post will be a summary of the paper, including the details of her argument and important points she includes.
Domestic minor sex trafficked victims are already protected under the federal law; their age grants them victim status. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act passed in 2000 states that “victims of severe forms of trafficking should not be inappropriately incarcerated, fined or otherwise penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as direct result of being trafficked.”  This act also says that sexual exploitation of minors and trafficking of minors can result in a punishment of 10 years to life in prison.

Although federal law understands the system and the needs of the victims of sex trafficking, “the laws and practices at the state and local level- where law enforcement is much more likely to encounter victims of domestic minor sex trafficking and traffickers- are much less victim- orientated... local procedures thus violate federal law[ii]” 25 states have no statues that deter the purchase of sex; while 47 states make prostitution illegal and the prostitution statues in 25 states criminalizes only the prostituted woman.  The criminalization of the child trafficked victim is one mistake made by local and state organizations, along with the lack of substantial charges against the child trafficker pimp: “misidentification of child sex traffickers as standard pimps- instead of receiving the sentence of between 10 years and life in prison that is required for child sex traffickers under federal law, they receive a much lighter punishment under local law- prison terms as short as 6 months.[iii]” Richter argues that these punishments and laws are “[in]sufficient [at] combat[ing] domestic minor sex trafficking as long as ignorance of these laws and misguided laws criminalizing prostitution persist.[iv]

Richter presents arguments for and against current laws and practices and her suggestion of criminalizing the purchase of sex and decriminalizing prostitution. The arguments for the current laws and practices are painful to get through due to the argumentee’s inability to see the whole picture.  One argument states that if the purchase of sex was criminalized than this would be “detrimental to [the clients’] efforts to identify and rescue victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. According to Schauer and Wheaton: [clients] are the ones who may be the first to recognize trafficking, develop serious interest in rescuing victim and be willing to bring instances of trafficking to the attention of the police…[clients] represent a wealth of information.”  The argument furthers by saying that they are giving the victims a source of income- however, what they fail to understand is that the child never received a dime of the money you give for having sex with them.  An argument for putting the victims in jail is that “it is important to maintain the requirement that victims cooperate with the investigation and prosecution of traffickers in order to be certified to obtain benefits.[v]
Richter critiques the arguments stated above; she points out the “hypocritical nature of the argument- that, because [clients] represent a source of information regarding the inner workings of domestic minor sex trafficking, they should be protected from arrest; but victims of domestic minor sex trafficking who could provide the same- or perhaps more pertinent- information as [clients] should be incarcerated or devalued.” My argument against the stated one above is why not use undercover “clients” be the ones researching and recognizing, rather than men who are paying to rape children and women? Just because they are willing to turn in a minor, does not mean they are willing to turn in a sex trafficked woman- they probably couldn’t tell the difference since the victims are made to put on a willing face, if not they face gang-rape by their pimp and others: “the incentive to present a willing face to [clients] is extremely high, making it unlikely that they will see their preferred prostitute as a victim[vi]”. What does the age of the victim matter- the men are committing a crime- rape. Richter draw attention to the fact that clients have “a significant vested interested in preventing law enforcement from finding traffickers or victims of domestic minor sex trafficking- the secrecy did, after all enable them to purchase the sexual services of a minor in the first place; it is not unreasonable to assume they would want to use those services again, especially since evidence suggest they systematically seek to exploit youth specifically.[vii]
She notes that it is “important to point that that no other victim of sexual abuse is forcibility placed in holding facilities for their protection[viii].” The incarceration hurts the victims physiologically; it reinforced the idea that they are to blame and they are criminals; they are unable to self-identify as a victim which discouraged them from cooperating with the law.   Also, the pimp tells the victim that the police are only going to criminalize them so “as far as the child see its, the only adult who had told her the truth is the pimp. Thus, because jail time reinforced the trustworthiness of the pimp as opposed to the trustworthiness of the law enforcement, the victim is more likely to both to avoid helping law enforcement prosecute the pimp and more likely to run back to the pimp once her term of incarceration is up.[ix]
“Due to the stigma attached to prostitution – the belief that they may be “promiscuous” or ‘willing’ prostitutes- placing domestic minor sex trafficking victims in prison may result in further sexual exploitation under the roof of a place that is charged with protecting her.[x]
She argues also that “criminalizing the purchase and subsequent in sexual acts would theoretically have two effects: discouraging [clients] from seeking out and exploiting minors sexually, diminishing the financial return to traffickers who engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of minors and thus discouraging them from that particular crime. Thus, ….criminalizing the purchase of sexual acts would result in diminishing both the demand and supply side of the exploitation equation.[xi]
As for Richter’s argument for the legalization of prostitution, she examines how clients and pimps use the illegal nature of prostitution to “further their interests and to ensure that they do not receive the justice they deserve.
She ends by stating her argument- that prostitution should be decriminalized and the solicitation of sex and the use of a prostituted woman’s services should be criminalized at a federal level. However, in order for these laws to make changes, the enforcement and understanding of them must be explained to law enforcement and those interacting with victims. A public awareness campaign must be run as well.

Important Points and Numbers
 What is CSEC? Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. CSEC includes pornography, child sex-tourism, trafficking of children for sexual purposes, and the prostitution of children. 
Pimps use the “specter of the US Law enforcements heavy handed approach to immigration and prostitution to keep their victim from seeking help.[xii]” 
According to EPCAT International, U.S. citizens account for25% of child sex tourists (people who buy children for sex) worldwide, and as much as 80% of those go to Latin America.
“83 of the largest police departments in the United States were largely unaware of trafficking as a crime problem in their jurisdictions, had little or no training in trafficking laws or issues, and believed that trafficking was an organized crime problem….. a starling lack of knowledge of anti-trafficking laws amongst professional in fields likely to interact with victims of domestic minor sex trafficking” [xiii]
The number one destination for American child sex tourist is the United States. (Playground).  However, these children are not seen as victims of human trafficking, due to the lack of movement: “The public discourse regarding CSEC as a transnational phenomenon has had a negative effect on protecting American victims since “with vast misperception that human trafficking requires movement of the victims across a border or state line, many cases of domestic minor sex trafficking are going unrecognized and therefore undocumented as trafficking.” [xiv]
65% of the john that go on the Internet is more responsive if the ads have age descriptions like ‘young’ or ‘barely legal’ attached to them.
As of 2009, it was illegal to purchase sexual acts only in 25 states. It is illegal to sell sexual acts in 47 states.
The age change to 18 switches the legality into criminalization of prostitution and the decriminalization of solicitation.
Law enforcements cannot legally use a minor as a decoy.
The first arrest of a domestic minor sex trafficking victim is critical to proper identification due to the fact that there is a widespread use of fraudulent identification. The pimps will place the victims in a situation so that they would be purposely arrested, knowing that the law enforcement will fail to identify the victims’ age correctly- which then insults them in the future.

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