It is hard to imagine that thousands of people are being exploited everywhere in the United States from rural areas to cities, coast to coast. Sexually exploited individuals are everywhere in all fifty states thus making sex trafficking a massive and serious issue. Sex trafficking stands as a multibillion dollar industry that reaches across all corners of the globe. Millions of people, mostly women and children, across the world are victims of this booming industry. This industry grows by the day and more women and children fall victims to this evil enterprise.
To ease this issue, society must first become aware of the definition of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking ranges from prostitution to child pornography. It is when victims are forced, coerced and exploited for sexual purposes. Most of the exploited, women and children, fall victim to neglect, abuse, and violence. To alleviate sex trafficking, court systems must give sex trafficked victims the proper tools to rehabilitate themselves into our society.
Our law enforcement officials and medical personnel must also remain aware of the signs of sex trafficked victims so that the victims can receive the care they need.
Even though many people may see a prostitute as a common criminal, many prostitutes are a victim of sexual exploitation and the real perpetrator is the party responsible for selling the exploited victim’s services and the person buying the services. Sadly, most of the people charged in prostitution sex crimes are the prostitutes themselves and not the people responsible for the buying and selling them.
Prostitutes are arrested more often than the customer and pimp because of how difficult it is for law enforcement officials to track and catch the people responsible for exploiting these trafficked victims. It is easier for law enforcement agents to catch the prostitutes on the street than it is to catch the people putting them on the street. According to Chief Judge Lippman, arresting the prostitute off the street only works temporarily and the prostitute will usually be replaced or come back to work once they have completed their sentence because they are intimidated, forced or have nowhere else to turn to for income.
Along with bringing the buyers and sellers to justice, our court systems need to give these sex victims the proper tools they need to reintegrate into society. Jonathan Lippman, a chief judge in New York, wrote an excellent article called; “New York’s Sex Trafficking Courts Will Help Victims”. Lippman discusses how the court systems in New York give these tools to sex workers that were brought in through law enforcement intervention. The tools that these judges give vary from victim to victim as every victim may need different forms of care. Some victims may need drug rehabilitation and others may need various kinds of health professionals. In New York, all sex workers brought into court are given a social worker that will help identify the proper programs needed to help the victim reintegrate into society. After the proper treatment programs needed have been identified, the judge gives a mandatory treatment sentence instead of a jail/prison sentence (Lippman 2016). Our society would benefit if more court systems across the country would follow New York’s approach.
Many of these sex workers are often misunderstood, and society does not want to talk about the real issues facing many of these victims. According to Lippman, many people believe that these exploited victims are addicted delinquents that are doing prostitution just for self-enrichment. Many do not realize that prostitution is very complex and not as simple as a delinquent, profit driven, prostitute that tries to build a career from this line of work. Most prostitutes start sex work when they are twelve to fourteen years old and are exploited at this young age. A lot of these children grow up doing this kind of work for the rest of their sad, dark and hopeless lives because they are neglected by justice system and abused by the people buying and selling their services (Lippman 2016). According to Judge Lippman, these trafficked victims, mostly immigrants, runaways, drug addicts, are also victims of neglect, abuse, and violence. Treating these victims as criminals will not resolve the issue of sex trafficking because they need crisis counseling, drug rehab and mental health assistance instead of a short jail or prison sentence followed by probation or parole.
Along with granting the resources to help trafficked victims, prosecutors and law enforcement officers need to spend more resources and time catching the buyers and sellers of sex. According to Judge Lippman’s article, district attorneys are responsible for keeping records of possible buyers and sellers of sex. Prosecutors are given districts to work in along with more law enforcement manpower geared toward catching the real perpetrators of sex trafficking. Resources for combatting sex trafficking in New York include more funding into equipment that is required to track the buyers and sellers of these prostitutes and specially trained officers to hunt these buyers and sellers down (Lippman 2016).
These trafficked victims also face many dangers from working in the sex trade. Many are subject to STD’s, rape, murder, drug abuse and violence. According to McGruder, 73 percent of prostitutes in the United States have been raped. McGruder also claims that for every 100,000 prostitutes, 204 are murdered in America each year (Ogbanna-McGruder 2012). The prostitutes that are being exploited, coerced or forced into this trade need to have the ability to seek out rehabilitation programs that will be able to support them through a transition out of this dangerous life. These programs need to be advertised on billboards through areas with high prostitution levels as well as hospitals. Billboards should also consist of information such as telephone numbers and addresses of the building where rehabilitation centers are located.
Another set of tools that must be expanded across more cities and suburbs are public outreach programs that help trafficked victims get off the streets. Sex trafficked victims need resources to help them opt out of prostitution without seeking help through law enforcement. According to Kathleen Preble’s article “Supportive Exits: A Best Practices Report for a Sex Worker Intervention.”, leaving prostitution is often extremely difficult for many sex workers because most of them do not seek outside support, and many are coerced, forced and intimidated into staying in prostitution by pimps. There are support groups, such as SAGE, that offer rehabilitation services to sex trafficked victims, however, these groups are limited and sometimes hard to find. Hospital staff needs to remain aware of the signs of sex trafficked victims and provide them with information on support groups in the area (Preble 2016). These support groups for sex trafficked victims need to expand to all major cities and suburbs. Support groups also need for backing and funding from the local and federal government to help them provide proper rehabilitation for all victims that seek help from these groups.
Even though providing support groups for sex workers will help alleviate sex trafficking, there also needs to be stronger consequences for those soliciting sex. In Ogbanna-McGruder’s article: “Analysis of Recidivism Rate of Magdalene Rehabilitation Program for Prostitution.”, most people caught soliciting sex were only charged with a misdemeanor. These buyers of sex are responsible for the exploitation of these trafficked victims and some are responsible for inflicting great harm to the victim such as rape, abuse, and even murder (Ogbanna-McGruder 2012). The exploiters of these trafficked victims are monsters that must be locked up, not ticketed. Law makers need to hold those responsible for buying sex by giving them serious consequences and not a slap on the wrist. If convicted, these buyers must be given a felony along with years in prison and register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. It is unacceptable to give these perverted buyers a simple misdemeanor with little to no consequence.
Not only are these buyers facing little consequence, they are also almost never caught. Ogbanna-McGruder also claims that of all prostitution arrests, only ten percent of the people charged are the buyers. The act of prostitution requires a prostitute and the buyer of the service the prostitute offers. This is an injustice in our justice system that only ten percent of the buyers are arrested in prostitution arrests. Law enforcement officers must focus on catching these buyers and law makers need to make sure these buyers are locked up in prison with a felony and registered as a sex offender. Law enforcement must receive backing of the justice system as well as the motivation to catch these buyers to make progress in alleviating the vast issue of sex trafficking.
One widely believed approach to somewhat ease sex trafficking is legalizing prostitution. Believers of this theory claim that legalizing and regulating prostitution may create a safer environment for these prostitutes and decrease the exploitation, abuse and violence that they may face. Although sex workers may face less abuse and violence, legalizing prostitution has many major issues that make it just as bad as illegal prostitution. For Example, in Nevada where prostitution is legal, women engaging in legal prostitution through brothels are independent contractors and do not receive health insurance, vacation days or retirement benefits (Ivie 2013). Brothel owners are also receiving up to fifty percent of the sex worker’s pay due to “room and board” fees because the worker is required to live on the premise of the brothel (Ivie 2013). The legal sex workers may have a safer environment, but they are still being exploited by licensed brothel owners. Legalizing prostitution will not alleviate sex trafficking in any way, it will only condone it.
Although many people have different solutions to the vast issue of sex trafficking, everyone agrees that we need to take this issue more seriously. Sex trafficking is not discussed enough in our society and this is troubling since this modern-day form of slavery runs rampant everywhere across the world. Everyone needs to be more concerned about this issue because these victims are someone’s child, sibling, or family member. These victims must not be swept under a rug like they have been in the past. These victims must be assisted out of this horrible, demeaning, life and to be rehabilitated with a healthy life. Our court systems and law enforcement are at the frontline battling this growing issue and they need to readjust their legal sights on the traffickers and buyers of these exploited victims.
Lippman, Jonathan. “New York’s Sex Trafficking Courts Will Help Victims.” Slavery and Human Trafficking, edited by Noah Berlatsky, Greenhaven Press, 2016. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context,
Preble, Kathleen M., et al. “Supportive Exits: A Best Practices Report for a Sex Worker Intervention.” Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, vol. 26, no. 2, Feb. 2016, pp. 162-178. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/10911359.2015.1082852.
Ogbonna-McGruder, Chinyere, et al. “Analysis of Recidivism Rate of Magdalene Rehabilitation Program for Prostitution.” Journal of Global Intelligence & Policy, vol. 5, no. 9, Winter 2012, pp. 11-29. EBSCOhost,
Vasquez, Amanda L., and Aimee Wodda. “Prostitution.” The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Jay S. Albanese, Wiley, 1st edition, 2014. Credo Reference,
Ivie, Allison. “Asset Theory and Prostitution: The Implications of U.S. Prostitution Policy and Ideology on Asset Building Strategies.” Women’s Policy Journal of Harvard, Apr. 2013, pp. 38- 51. EBSCOhost,
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