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.