Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods"

Ashley Gilbertson/VII, for The New York Times 
A quick Google news search for human trafficking yields 2,880 results. “Estonia makes human trafficking illegal.” “Sex trafficking rampant in Mexico.” “Anti human trafficking organization to host survivor.” Human trafficking is getting press and although there are many stories still untold, the attention of more newspapers, organizations, and individuals are turning towards this human reality.

I am interested in what the news has to say not only because I want to keep up-to-date but also because this is the information and perspectives the larger culture is getting. I came across an opinion editorial, published in the New York Times on March 17th, which caught my attention because of the different angles of human trafficking it wove together: survivors, traffickers, and advocacy. The article written by Nicholas D. Kristof is entitled, “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods.”

Alissa, a native of Boston, is a survivor. At the age of 16 she met a man she thought was a rapper who told her she was attractive. Soon, she was being sold to johns 7 days a week, 365 days a year and to other pimps for a price of $10,000. As a high school sophomore, she did not leave "because of a feeling that there was a romantic bond, partly because of Stockholm syndrome (psychological paradox where a hostage develops positive feelings for her captor), and partly because of raw fear" (Kristof). When she did leave, a couple of years later, she was severely injured and compelled to comply with police.

In her story, she shares her first-hand knowledge of Backpage, a "classified advertising Web site that is used to sell auto parts, furniture, boatsboats — and girls" (Kristof). Alissa expresses, "You can’t buy a child at Wal-Mart, can you?...No, but you can go to Backpage and buy me on Backpage.” Backpage accounts for about 70% of prostitution advertising between five websites that have such ads in the United States. Additionally it earns more than $22 million annually from prostitution ads, according to AIM Group.

The article reminds readers that when such ads were taken down from Craigslist in 2010, "online prostitution advertising plummeted by more than 50 percent, according to AIM Group" (Kristof). There are currently several petitions and movements to take action against Backpage, which is owned by Village Voice Media. For example, change.org has a petition with 101,547 signatures (as of today).  

Alissa is now 25 years old and a college senior. She also works for Fair Girls, a non-profit that prevents the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education. Her story is one of sadness, struggle, and triumph. Each women who is brought from slavery to freedom has a story to tell, and each story gives us fresh insight into how to best work together to end human trafficking.

As articles like Kristof's are published our knowledge increases. May we continue to be informed, critically think about information, and be moved to respond. 

Kristof, Nicholas D. "Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods." New York Times, 17 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.  

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