Some thoughts about the “DC sex trafficking ring” stuff spreading all over FB this week:
You know statistically, it’s very likely that missing kids are runaways/throwaways (50%), or that they’re reported missing due to a simple miscommunication (38%), or were taken by a non-custodial parent, which typically happens as a kinda revenge against the custodial parent (7%). That’s 95% of cases right there.
Underage people who run away or are kicked out have an increased chance of entering the sex industry, but a study conducted in NYC showed that extremely-few underage sex workers are even pimped: for some kids, doing sex work is actually preferable to whatever shitty things were keeping them trapped at home. I don’t wanna argue about the “ethics” of underage sex-working or whatever, it’s just a reality of what some teenagers do to survive in nearly-impossible circumstances.
Which brings me to another concern about how we ignore the systemic, and much more difficult to address, reasons why kids end up missing. It’s rarely stranger-danger, and more likely something like abuse (physical, mental, sexual, etc.), or a broken child welfare system, or queer kids feeling unsupported at home or whatever.
Politicians and law enforcement and whatever other opportunists love to jump on whatever new sex trafficking panic rears its head (which happens routinely in different forms) as a way to crack down on already-marginalized communities (poor ppl, poc, sex workers, illicit drug users). They arrest a buncha of adult streetworkers and massage girls, tossing em into the inherently-VIOLENT carceral system, and get pats all around for “at least doing SOMETHING”.
And ppl point to sketchy-but-more-benign magazine-salesperson recruitment posters and stuff as proof of trafficking (pix of which a number of folks on my feed have been passing around this week), thinking that that’s what trafficking looks like, just out in plain sight like that (believe me ive had some sketchy jobs like that and so have my friends but they were technically legal and non-sexual! There are tons of ways to economically exploit highschoolers that won’t get you thrown in prison bc “free market” n shit).
-a woc friend who is shy and wants to remain anonymous.
but just a reminder: the stats around trafficking are deliberately vagued up by antitrafficking orgs who stretch the definition of youth and the definition of trafficked, but the info we have gives us no reason to believe that sexual exploitation numbers differ materially from sexual abuse and rape numbers; that is, two thirds of sexual abuse and assault are committed by people known to the survivor or even their family.
if you want to support kids and survivors of sexual violence, you need to be supporting the creation and funding of youth shelters, day centers, drop in centers, the renewal of RHYA and the inclusion of LGBT in the population services it funds, and a total overhaul of the child welfare system AND the DHS: adults in foster homes and developmentally disabled adults are exponentially more likely to be sexually exploited and abused than almost any other category of adult.
She doesn’t remember much of the election season—she was only thirteen, and it was a blur of hands shaking hers, holodroids recording as she sweated through heavy gowns; her campaign manager saying, smile, naberrie, don’t you want to be a queen?
It’s a good question. She’s not sure how she would have answered it, if she’d known what she was getting into.
Her mother is an astrophysicist and her father owns Naboo’s largest interworld shipping yard; if it hadn’t been for Senator Palpatine, politics would never have occurred to her. But the Senator had noticed her, plucked her from the Young Leaders of the Naboo during their visit to Theed. He had taken an interest, suggested a stylist and a campaign manager, introduced her to the ‘right’ people. (Padme was never entirely clear what the criterion was, for these determinations. In hindsight, she probably should have asked.)
On the night of the election, he had taken her by the shoulders, and said, congratulations, your majesty, and Padme Naberrie had been so overwhelmed she wept, there on his shoulder.
She has a panic attack, just before her coronation. It’s not something she’s aware of, at the time, but the moment they fit the ceremonial death’s mask over her face she is gone, she is far away—she watches the proceedings from outside herself, as
Padmé Naberrie dies on her knees, as Queen Amidala rises up in her place.
Padmé thinks, my gods, that unfortunate wretch, that queen amidala. I pity her.
She does like her handmaids, though. The first year of her reign is occupied by training, a thousand things that must be learned—including hand-to-hand combat, the art of weapons, and the geopolitical landscape of the galaxy. She is not from a traditional noble family; she has not had the kind of education most queens receive from birth. Instead, she has herself, a dozen girls who could pass for her twin (if you weren’t quite sure what Queen Amidala looked like) and a furious determination not to make a fool of herself.
Sabé took her place for most of the blockade, the negotiations. Padmé was so angry she couldn’t speak to the Trade Federation without shaking. Once, she lost her temper completely and threw an ornamental vase at their representative—they stopped sending representatives, switched to holos. Choked off the food supply to Theed until Padmé apologized, clenching her teeth so tightly she was afraid her jaw might break with it.
Later, after, she is viciously glad when Palpatine comes to her, tugging on the heavy livery collar that marks him Galactic Chancellor. (Nervously, she thinks then. Like a beast playing with a fresh kill, she revises later, in light of new information.)
Padmé is in her nightdress, and she is still viciously glad when she says, “Make them pay, for daring to touch my world,” and Palpatine smiles, all teeth.
Once upon a time, there is a Queen, and she is good, and frightened, and mostly tries, tries very hard. Keeps trying. Wakes up the morning after trying, and lets her handmaids adorn her, and tries again.
Nevertheless, she spends the last seven and a half months of her reign desperately counting the moments until it’s over, until she will be free. There is talk of making her senator, but she dismisses it as gossip at every turn, rejects it even when Queen Jamillia offers
Padmé the role.
She has a hundred thousand plans—sitting in a restaurant with no one and nothing to interrupt her; catching up on the holodramas she loved; walking her sister to school; listening to her father complain about managers and her mother complain about apprentices and all she wants, she thinks, is to even just a glance at what normality might look like.
There are some journeys you cannot come back from, and queenship is one of them. At thirteen, the Lake District was the whole galaxy, but has fought a war, plead for her people on the floor of the Senate, gone to the furthest reaches of the Outer Rim and met Jedi, ratified treaties, almost died a hundred times over. (She goes swimming in the mornings, and cannot keep herself from thinking, this is everything? this is all? for the rest of my life?)
Her mother thinks she should found a school. Her father thinks she should be enjoying herself, perhaps meeting her future partner. Her sister is largely quiet, perhaps because they are virtual strangers to one another. (Padmé has not been back to the house of her birth for—too many years, when Sola was a happy child and not a sullen adolescent. She’s skipped so much of the middle of her family’s life, she doesn’t know how to make up for it.)
She’s not used to how desperately, horribly impotent she feels, shunted to the sidelines of her world. After a few weeks, her mother begins hiding all their datapads so Padmé can’t scroll through the morning holos and spend the day working herself into a rage over galactic affairs and idiot political decisions. Padmé writes passionate transmits to her many old colleagues, advising on courses of action, but their replies are cool, a formality. (She is not Queen Amidala anymore, they do not have to listen to her.)
Jamillia passes an edict that
Padmé had spent months ensuring would be stillborn and without support, and
Padmé is so furious that she unearths her old handmaiden training blaster, and spends the afternoon blasting holes in a garden statute.
(“You grandmother gave us that, as a wedding present,” her mother sighs, when
Padmé eventually makes her way back. “It was horrible and ugly,”
Padmé says in her most airy queen-like voice, and her mother laughs.)
She is so starved for substance that when Palpatine sends a transmission asking if she would like to meet him for dinner—the Senate is in recess, he has retreated to the Lake District to escape the miasma of Theed—Padmé jumps at the opportunity.
He still smiles with his teeth and not his eyes. Padmé was not aware how much she missed that—or rather, how much she missed the danger of it. To sit and talk in smooth, wide circles and have a conversation in the unsaid spaces was a thrill, electric and missed.
(She is not Queen Amidala anymore; she is just Padmé. But she has missed politics, all the same.)
“I know you would not consider it, when our queen—” he says ‘our queen’ with the faintest trace of irony in his voice, and
Padmé bites down a delighted laugh at how pleasantly obvious he’s being, like a joke, just between them, “—offered you the mantle of senator.”
“I was hoping you might consider it now,” Palpatine says. “I think we could do…great things, you and I. We could change the galaxy.”