The truth behind the myth of sex-slave
(Note by AH: The huge fabrications by western government officials
concerning the issue of sex-trafficking are mostly designed to give
themselves good jobs and pensions for doing very little. Their figures
concerning sex-trafficking into western countries are mostly inflated by a
truly staggering amount; just one recent example being the claim that
40,000 women would be trafficked into West Germany to cater for men
attending the Football Cup Final when, in fact, it was found by the
Justice Department that some 5 women might
have been trafficked.)
The reports of Eastern European women being
forced into prostitution in the West are as numerous as they are horrific. They
have worried the government so much that the Home Office has plans for a new
scheme to provide ‘safe-houses’ for the victims of sex trafficking. But for
many who work with these ‘sex slaves’ the women’s accounts are just that
— stories. It is seldom reported, but widely known, that most women volunteer
for the trip westward because of the money they can make.
The sex-slave stories are suspiciously
similar. The women are usually from some deprived backwater. They have naively
answered advertisements for jobs as waitresses or nannies in the West. However,
when they arrived to start their new life, their documents were confiscated,
they were beaten and raped into submission, and forced to become prostitutes.
They then claimed to have been kept as sex slaves, sometimes chained to beds,
terrified and servicing as many customers as the brothel owner demanded.
According to the International Office of
Migration which rescues and shelters these women, there are an estimated 400,000
enduring this existence. But as anyone who works closely with the prostitutes
and who isn’t infected with victimitis knows, the IOM version of events is
the overwhelming majority of girls going to the
West understand before they leave that they will be working in
Take Assistant Chief Constable Andy Felton, a
British police officer who has been working in Romania for the past three years.
Most of his time has been spent on Project Reflex, a unique Romanian/British
venture to stem illegal immigration into the UK. As part of the initiative,
Felton has interrogated those deported from the UK. ‘Some are tricked into
becoming prostitutes, but the overwhelming majority of girls going to the West
understand before they leave that they will be working in prostitution,’ says
He has found that far from being gullible
peasant girls, as portrayed by the IOM, most were seasoned prostitutes before
they left. For brothel owners ‘experience is essential’; it makes poor
business sense to trick unsuspecting girls into the trade. Those without
experience but who still want to go are tried out in the nearest big city to
avoid making a dud investment.
So the sad and perhaps unpalatable fact is
that most Eastern European women working abroad as prostitutes do so out of
choice. This choice may be dictated by appalling poverty and lack of opportunity
in their home countries but it is, nonetheless, a choice.
The minimum salary in Romania is $50 a month
— even less in Moldova and Ukraine. It is not surprising that many women
become sex workers, if only to support their families. But if the punters are
all living on tiny wages, the amount left over for prostitutes will also be
small. No wonder the temptation to do the same work in the West for $100 a
client proves just too tempting.
In the sex-slave myth, the recruiters scour
Eastern Europe with smooth talk and big promises. These latter-day big bad
wolves lure women with offers of jobs and a bright future. A frightening
scenario, indeed. It just isn’t true. ‘There is no huge international
prostitute recruiting team travelling around Central and Eastern Europe. There
is no fleet of Mercs with blacked-out windows and a madam in the back luring
women abroad,’ says Felton.
almost all the women’s westward journeys were
arranged by someone they know. ‘This tends to be a family member ...
His investigations have found that almost all
the women’s westward journeys were arranged by someone they know. ‘This
tends to be a family member, or a local person, or someone who has herself been
a prostitute in the West.'
Then there are the traffickers/brothel owners:
a particularly well-organised bunch — normally the Albanian mafia — we are
told. Again, nice story, nice villain, but just not true. ‘It’s more a case
of, I know someone with a bus in Timisoara and somebody else knows somebody in
Italy who will meet them. It is a loose alliance of contacts. There is no huge
criminal structure with a mafia godfather running it,’ says Felton.
He wishes it were that simple. ‘One of the
problems tackling these networks is that they are so loose they can easily fall
apart,’ he says.
Accounts of widespread cruelty by brothel owners are
easy to believe, but do not stand up to scrutiny
Accounts of widespread cruelty by brothel
owners are easy to believe, but do not stand up to scrutiny. The owners are in a
business that thrives on the customer who visits regularly and very often has a
‘relationship’ with his favourite girl. No doubt a small number of men get a
kick out of seeing women chained to beds or battered and bruised, but for most
it would be a turn-off. That is not to say there are not bad and crooked brothel
owners. But the women come West voluntarily, and very quickly learn through word
of mouth which establishments to avoid.
Despite seldom being reported, Felton’s
findings are not news to his Romanian counterparts. Major Marin Banica used to
be Romania’s most senior police officer investigating ‘women trafficking’.
‘Very few go abroad without knowing exactly why they are going,’ he says.
However, the Eastern European prostitute as
victim is a powerful image, and ever more influential NGOs are reluctant to let
the truth get in the way of their story. Take the case of the Cambodia Seven. In
2001, seven Romanian ‘sex slaves’ were found in Cambodia. Their rescuers,
who included the IOM, reported how they had been offered jobs as dancers but
were then forced into prostitution. Their plight received international media
coverage and was mentioned by Brunson McKinney, the IOM director, at an
anti-trafficking conference in Bucharest. He said it was an indication of the
Yet, according to Banica, the full story of
the Cambodia Seven was not told. Before the Romanian authorities could reach
Cambodia to organise bringing the women home, one managed to slip away from her
‘rescuers’. Banica does not know where she ended up, but believes she
returned to prostitution. Legitimate job opportunities for Romanian women in
Cambodia are limited.
Banica does know what happened to the six who
returned. ‘Within weeks three of the women had gone to work in Albania —
again as prostitutes,’ he says.
The sex-slave myth also portrays Eastern
European women as idiots.
The sex-slave myth also portrays Eastern
European women as idiots. Banica asks how hundreds of thousands of women from
the same pockets of the country could have been repeatedly tricked. For this to
be true, it also means no duped woman has ever come home and, if they have, they
have never talked to family and friends about their experiences.
To accept the sex-slave myth, one must also
accept that none of the women or their families or friends has ever read a
newspaper or watched Romanian television, where the story is given widespread
and often sensational coverage. Or maybe they do and that is exacerbating the
A recent Romanian television public-awareness
campaign shows faceless men recruiting naive women while salivating over the
massive sums of money to be made. The emphasis on the huge amounts of cash
available could be all the encouragement that some women need.
Phelim McAleer is the Financial Times
correspondent for Romania.
They also conclude that abduction for purposes of 'trafficking' into the sex industry is very rare (p.99). GSN (1997) also relates the testimonies of a number of 'trafficked' sex workers in their report. Research by the foundation for Women in Thailand found that by far the majority of women migrating from northern Thailand to Japan were aware that they would be working in the sex industry
(Skrobanek 1997). This conclusion is supported by Watenabe (1998) who worked as a bar girl herself in Japan in the course of her research into Thai women migrating to the Japanese sex industry. Other research, such as that by Brockett and Murray (1994) in Australia, Anarfi (1998) in Ghana, Kempadoo (1998b) in the Caribbean, COIN (1998) in the Dominican Republic and the Salomon Alapitvany Foundation in Hungary (1998)  indicates that women seeking to migrate are not so easily 'duped' or 'deceived', and are aware that most jobs on offer are in the sex industry.
"Tonight our cameras take you into a dark
world you've never seen," intoned John Quinones darkly on last week's
edition of ABC Primetime. "American girls being snatched right off Main
Street USA. And they could be your very own daughters." Shocking! The
program went on to tell about two Arizona teens ñ both white and girl-next-door
cute, who purportedly were minding their own business before being snatched from
home and coerced into prostitution. Or "trafficking," as Primetime put
it. That was the show's point: We already know that impoverished immigrants from
the Eastern Europe and Mexico are enslaved here, but now we've got a new
problem, the trafficking of our own, middle-class girls. Shocking! The show was
full of dire warnings by government officials. Not surprising, since the Bush
Administration's mission to find foreign "sex trafficking" victims has
gone belly up since it began in 2001. Almost no victims have been located, but
the feds want to keep their law and rhetoric afloat and broaden it to other
areas, including the culture wars. For ballast, they're trolling for a domestic
demographic, warning that kids and prostitution is a new "trafficking"
But the claim is specious. To make it, you
have to play with language and omit facts or bend them so far that they
break. That's what Primetime did, Thursday, February 9, with two teens, one pseudonymed "Debbie," and the other called by her real name, Miya.
Miya, according to ABC, was working in an
Arizona mall when she was approached by a couple who asked if she'd like to come
with them to California and be a model. She agreed, and before she knew it, she
was being forcibly pimped through an Internet escort service and terrorized into
sex slavery. One morning she managed to escape from the seedy hotel she was
imprisoned in. Authorities were notified. Now one of her captors is in jail
the "sex slave" part is a hoax
That's the Primetime version, but the
"sex slave" part is a hoax. Police in Mesa, Arizona and Union City,
California, say that Miya -- who was 19 and thus legally an adult -- willingly
went to California and willingly had sex, both with the couple she was with and
with others. Said Tom Haselton, investigating sergeant for the case in Union
City, "I can understand the family might be embarrassed and want to tell a
different story. But by the time we were done talking with [Miya] we determined
that what she did was consensual. There was no force used on her and she had
plenty of opportunities to leave. And when she did leave, who did she call? Not
the police, but a friend, just saying she wanted to get home to Arizona."
No charges regarding Miya were filed. The man she'd been with was charged
because the female member of the couple was 16 -- underage. Creepy, exploitative
and illegal, but she wasn't coerced either. "She seemed to be in love with
the pimp," says Haselton. "It's an age-old story."
Primetime's other example of a "sex
trafficked" teen, 15-year-old Debbie, is the alleged victim of some truly
horrible assaults, and police don't contest this. Even so, Primetime left out
details of the case, making it seem more novel than it is. Debbie has said she
was held at gunpoint in a Phoenix apartment and threatened with death and harm
to her family unless she had sex with dozens of men. Often she was stuffed by
her captors into a dog carrier and a bed frame. Her ordeal lasted over six weeks
until she managed to sneak a call to her mother. Then she was rescued, and
returned to what Primetime called her "close-knit" family. She'd been
separated from them in the first place, Primetime reported, when she was
"snatched" ñ as host John Quinones put it -- right off her front
lawn. That happened when a girl she knew only casually drove up to Debbie's
suburban house. Debbie stepped out of the house wearing Sponge-Bob pajamas.
Suddenly she was pushed into the car and kidnapped.
But Phoenix Police Department press releases
describe Debbie as a runaway. Police spokesman Andy Hill told me earlier this
week that she was having problems with her family. She left home willingly with
a friend, the girlfriend of a pimp, and a few hours later was herself dragooned
into prostitution. Debbie's is a story of gross coercion, but clearly there's
some background here. The vast majority of US kids who get involved with
prostitution are runaways; this has been so for a very long time. That fact
makes for yet another stale story. So it was left out of Primetime's because it
didn't fit the boogie-man theme pushed these days when sex trafficking gets
discussed -- in the media and lately by the feds as well.
Four-year olds are passed to pedophiles at Disneyland,
11-year-olds in communion dresses are sold to Mexican farmworker perverts.
In that telling, little children are enslaved
right in plain sight. Four-year olds are passed to pedophiles at Disneyland,
11-year-olds in communion dresses are sold to Mexican farmworker perverts.
Despite ample evidence that these stories are urban myths, the New York Times
Magazine cited them anyway and conjured dozens of child sex slaves in a piece by
Peter Landesman that the magazine ran two years ago. Its title? "The Girls
Next Door." And last fall, the Lifetime television network ran a much-
publicized drama in which a prepubescent white girl is kidnapped off the streets
by a hi-tech trafficking ring that operates all across the globe and plans to
sell her to "the Saudis." This despite the fact that no such rings are
known to exist.
Paranoid "white slavery" crusades
date back to 19th-century England and America. Back then they promoted
anti-immigrant and racist sentiments against Jews and others scapegoated for
being kidnappers and panderers. They drove prostitutes who had heretofore worked
independently into the hands of pimps. Meanwhile, they did virtually nothing to
white-slave panic is being reincarnated by the
Now, white-slave panic is being reincarnated
by the federal government. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was
launched five years ago with much fanfare from evangelicals in the Bush
administration, feminists (many of who earlier worked with conservatives to try
to outlaw pornography), and liberals concerned about forced-labor trafficking in
general. Proponents predicted that thousands of forcibly sex-trafficked
immigrant women would be found. Instead, a couple of hundred have turned up, at
But there are plenty of U.S.citizens who spend
a little or a lot of time in prostitution. Quite a few are minors -- as many as
300,000, estimates the new TVPA, which was enthusiastically rolled out by
President Bush at a ceremony in January. Legally speaking, minors are always
considered victims, even if they are not coerced. The new TVPA earmarks funds to
label them as sex slaves.
No matter that most of these new
"trafficking" victims are runaways and throwaways: often minorities,
often poor, and often gay. No matter that they are seldom kidnapped or forced
into prostitution, rarely fit the image of the girl next door, usually don't
think of themselves as "trafficking victims," and typically distrust
the police. No matter that we lack social services for them so they can live on
their own and thrive if home is unbearable. These children are just an old
story. They're not ready for prime time.
But they are ready to fuel a movement most of
the public hasn't heard of yet. The domestic trafficking language of the TVPA
was lifted from another piece of legislation, the "End Demand Act."
That bill aims to crack down on all prostitution in the U.S., by defining every
bit of it as "domestic sex trafficking," even when it's between
consenting adults. End Demand is sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX (who
recently equated gay marriage with humans copulating with box turtles). The act
has bipartisan support but has not yet been passed. End Demand's wording about
minors, however, was imported into the latest TVPA.
The government has not yet turned consensual
adult prostitution into a federal crime. But last summer, the feds and other
organizations, many of who have supported the End Demand Act and the new TVPA,
started working the zeitgeist by pitching to the media about American kiddie
slaves on Main Street. Primetime responded. Defending last week's story, ABC
spokeswoman Paige Capossela said that "Our producers found two cases that
illustrate what the FBI, other law enforcement and child protection agencies
described to us as trafficking." That's a nice excuse for some high yellow
journalism. And, no doubt, for some high Nielsen ratings as well.