The 100,000 to 300,000 estimate of sex trafficking victims in the US has caused controversy. The Village Voice’s article, “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight,” a cheeky pun alluding to Kutcher’s Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign, targets this figure, saying that it’s a farcical overestimation.
The Village Voice looks at a different figure, 827, which is the average number of youth arrested on prostitution charges each year. What the Voice doesn’t realize is that the low number of children arrested on prostitution charges is a good thing. Increased training has resulted in law enforcement identifying prostituted children as trafficking victims, and thus, not guilty of a crime. Shared Hope International has trained over 10,000 first responders – many of whom now seek to place child victims in services instead of handcuffs. Jurisdictions that have a high number of arrests for prostituted minors indicate lack of training and a need to change department procedures to aid victims. Based on this, arrest records for prostituted youth should never serve as an estimate the number of trafficking victims in the US.
Other estimates vary. In a New York study, the number of prostituted children in 2008 in New York City alone was 4,000. A Georgia study estimated that the number of youth trafficked in Georgia in a year was about 4,000. Those are only studies from two areas of the US and are much larger than the 827 that the Voice supports in place of the number anti-trafficking advocates estimate. But why is the Village Voice so dedicated to targeting these larger figures?
The Village Voice has, for quite some time, run adult classified ads through Backpage.com. Upon the removal of the adult services section from Craigslist.com, the Voice benefitted from a huge revenue jump. Now, they’re claiming that their First Amendment right “was shouted down in the name of children.” However, the First Amendment has its limitations in situations where our freedom of the press and speech conflict with other laws—like the laws that make it illegal to purchase children for sex.
This freedom of speech, however, is quite profitable for online classifieds. In fact, the Georgia study found that ads on Craigslist for prostitution received three times as many responses as the same ads listed on similar sites.
It appears the Voice doesn’t put a face to any of these girls who were exploited through their site, even referring to the victims as “whores” in one point in the article. Perhaps if the Voice saw these girls as victims rather than a meager statistic, they would take some responsibility for perpetuating the trafficking of children.