Since I have been a member of ATS, periodically I find a new thread of outrage over sex trafficking in America. Generally, the story told is of young
girls (under 16 years of age) desperately trapped as a sex slave to some monstrous pimp or madam who ruthlessly uses them to build horrid empires.
Reports of this form of modern-day slavery is understandably upsetting and should outrage the most indifferent among us.
The FBI's report on human sex
Human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery. Estimates place the number of its domestic and international victims in the
millions, mostly females and children enslaved in the commercial sex industry for little or no money.
Activists, such as Kevin Bales
, President of
Free the Slaves
, have written books titled
The Slave Next Door
to draw attention to - and to alarm - this problem.
Even if only a handful of young children are being used as sex slaves this is indeed an alarming circumstance, but as you saw from the FBI website
page, it is estimated (by the FBI) to be in the millions, not just a handful, but how did the FBI determine there were millions of young children
(mostly girls) trapped in a hell of sex slavery? What methodology did they use to obtain these figures?
As it turns out, few government and outside organizations have used any real scientific method to determine the alarming numbers they have reported.
However, in 2008 Ric Curtis and Meredith Dank from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice
, after obtaining
$500,000 to do a study to determine the actual numbers of child sex slaves, gave the federal government their report, demolishing several stereotypes
and falsehoods about this circumstance.
No research team before them had hit on a workable method of quantifying this elusive population. For decades, most law enforcement officials,
social workers and activist groups had cited a vast range — anywhere from tens of thousands to three million — when crafting a sound bite pegging
the population of underage hookers nationwide. But the range had been calculated with little or no direct input from the children themselves.
Over time, the dubious numbers became gospel. In similar fashion, monetary outlays based on the veracity of those numbers began to multiply.
The $500,000 the federal government had allotted for this joint study by John Jay and New York's public-private Center for Court Innovation was chump
change compared to the bounty amassed by a burgeoning assortment of nonprofit groups jockeying to liberate and rehabilitate the captive legions of
exploited and abused children.
What followed was - while not nearly as alarming as the notion of young girls trapped in sex slave trafficking rings - alarming enough as those who
have benefited (and arguably as much as any pimp or madam has) on this alarming crime, the government agencies tasked with arresting and prosecuting
the sex traffickers, and the non-profits who have promised to help the victims of sex slave trafficking, began to circle their wagons and if not
openly challenge the John Jay Report, resist its findings, and why not?
"I remember going to a meeting in Manhattan where they had a lot of prosecutors whose job was to prosecute pimps," Curtis recalls. "They were
sort of complaining about the fact that their offices were very well staffed but their workload was...not very daunting, let's say. They had a couple
cases, and at every meeting you go to, they'd pull out the cherry-picked case of this pimp they had busted, and they'd tell the same story at every
They, too, were bothered by the fact that they couldn't find any pimps, any girls. "So I come along and say, 'I found 300 kids' — they're all
perky — but then I say, 'I'm sorry, but only 10 percent had pimps.'
"It was like a fart in church. Because basically I was saying their office was a waste of time and money."
One of the long perpetuated reports - joyfully lapped up by media and regurgitated to upset and outrage us all - that had been dispelled by the John
Jay Report was that only 10% of these child prostitutes were involved with what Curtis and Dank call "market facilitators", which I suppose is
scientific terminology for pimps and madams. This meant that 90% of these child prostitutes were doing business on their own.
The FBI's Innocence Lost
"Whether you are a kid or an adult, the issue becomes: To what extent is this voluntary?" Albanese says. "Because you make more money in this
than being a secretary? Or because you really have no choices — like, you're running from abuse or caught up in drugs? The question becomes: If
Curtis is correct, what do we do with that 90 percent? Do we ignore it? How hard do we look at how they got into that circumstance? You could make the
case that for the 90 percent for whom they couldn't find any pimping going on — well, how does it happen?
"It's a very valid question," he continues. "A policy question: To what extent should the public and the public's money be devoted to these
issues, whether it's child prostitution or child pimping?"
website informs us that around 200
children are rescued from sex trafficking scenarios each year. While this fact certainly underscores the reality of the problem, what is not
underscored, and even avoided is the fact that between government law enforcement agencies and social services agencies tasked with handling this
problem, $80 million of tax dollars is spent each year to rescue an average of 200 children. That is roughly $400,000 per child per year.
Is that too much, or not enough? Certainly children trapped in sex slave trafficking should be rescued, but how well does anyone truly understand
this problem, and if we do not truly understand this problem, how can we possibly expect to fix the damned problem?
It is also worth noting that much of the federal funding, and even private funding is allocated to help young teenage girls believed to be trapped in
these sex trafficking cycles, but as the John Jay Report makes clear, 45% of the child prostitutes are teenage boys who are largely ignored by the
system that itself seems to intent on ignoring any facts that might reduce the size of their own bureaucracy claiming to handle the problem.
The dirty little secret of sex trafficking is that if we allow government funding to discriminate against the 90% of child prostitutes who do not fit
in the paradigm of alarming "modern-day slavery" scenarios just so they can enlarge their own bureaucracies, and by extension their own wallets,
then how are they any different than the largely missing "market facilitators" they claim exist?
When a problem gets overwhelmingly complex, parsimony becomes prudent. ATS, what is to be done?