with restless hearts

reflections, critiques, comments, and questions of a 20-something catholic in pursuit of truth and justice in a dualistic world

hollywood, trafficking, and the loss of our girls

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One of the social justice issues that I am most passionate about is that of domestic human trafficking and child trafficking in particular. This week saw the publication of a wonderful if not sobering article on the role of the media in child trafficking. The article, written by a survivor of child sex trafficking can be found here.

Really?

In it, the author argues that child trafficking (she deals with girls although trafficking certainly affects boys too) is in some ways legitimized, or at the very least, enabled by the media and popular culture’s portrayal of women. We all know the story – the media’s ideal of feminine beauty is becoming more and more youthful and young girls are being more pressured than ever to buy into their roles as sexualized, and therefore allegedly empowered, objects of desire.

Now, this is definitely written from the perspective of one woman’s experience of story, and the Hollywood enticement strategy is one that is only attempted on (and works on) certain youth populations. Despite this minor caveat, though, this short piece powerful truths, and the one that grabbed me the most was this:

 A sex trafficker once said that he didn’t have to groom his victims because society did that for him.  I can personally attest to this.

I harbor no illusions that I am by any means an expert in child trafficking, at least not yet anyway, but I have had experiences that have brought me face-to-face with it’s ugly reality. And for what it’s worth, and for what my experience has taught me, I can personally attest to the above statement as well.

So what’s the answer to all of this? Surely we can all agree that child sex trafficking is debasing, disgusting, and just all around appalling, but agreeing with something and actually doing something are two totally different things. As a society, are we willing to part with our night clubs, bars, and strip clubs that serve as a front for trafficking and forced prostitution? Are we really willing to boycott the movies, television shows, and magazines that invite us to imagine young women and girls as objects of self-gratification rather than as dignified daughters of God?

I think that the answer, at least as it stands now, is not yet. But I honestly believe that this because people today are not as educated about this issue as they should be. How can we even talk about taking away women’s “right” to earn money by selling their bodies and men’s “right” to participate if no one is talking about the fact that legitimate strip clubs in this country are few in number and that most are a front for trafficking?

Another, equally frustrating road-block to real conversation and change that I repeatedly encounter is the false notion that trafficking affects immigrants and foreign women, not americans. Well news flash, trafficking is in the United States, in your city, in your schools, quite possibly in your neighborhoods. Young girls are approached by pimps and traffickers at malls, at the movies,on their commutes home from school. This is not just some other country’s problem. This is our problem. These are our girls.

I could go on about this for hours, but I also understand that if I want to contribute constructively to this budding conversation, I need to do more research and be able to back up my claims. So I will, and I’ll write about this more in the future. In the meantime, though, I just want to leave with a word of thanks to those who are beginning to push this issue into the main sphere of ethical journalism and political discussion.

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