Advocates Sounding the Alarm on Sex Trafficking
By Alexi Cohan
Sex trafficking, known as a modern form of slavery, preys upon the vulnerability of its victims worldwide, with over 40,000 cases reported in the United States alone since 2007, many originating overseas, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The charges against Patriots owner Robert Kraft, accused of soliciting prostitution at a day spa in Jupiter, Fla., have advocates sounding the alarm over sex trafficking.
“These girls are there all day long, into the evening. They can’t leave and they’re performing sex acts,” Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey in a press conference yesterday.
There were 261 cases of sex trafficking reported last year in Florida with top venues including hotels, private residences and spas according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Brandon Bouchard, spokesman for Polaris, a nonprofit aimed at preventing human trafficking, said the organization recently found 9,000 suspected illicit massage parlor businesses across the United States.
“Nationally, as law enforcement conduct raids and stings targeting sex trafficking operations, it’s critical that they do so in a victim- and trauma-focused way that doesn’t criminalize the people forced to provide commercial sex services,” said Bouchard.
Sex trafficking is also an issue in the Bay State, with Attorney General Maura Healey dedicating a Human Trafficking Division to focus on the issue.
Jillian Fennimore, a Healey spokeswoman, said, “These allegations are deeply disturbing. Our office works every day to support victims and survivors of human trafficking and end the demand for commercial sex.”
Barbara Anderson, founder and president of All Hands In, said, “No girl ever grows up wanting to be a prostitute, so there has to be a reason behind why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
Anderson said the risk of trafficking is widespread. “Our youth are very much at risk,” she said.
But Jill McCracken, associate professor at the University of South Florida, said there are differences between consensual sex work and sex trafficking.
“Oftentimes people will go in and ‘rescue’ adults who are consenting to engage in prostitution,” said McCracken, adding that sex workers are often afraid to come forward to law enforcement officials.
Alex Andrews, co-founder of the Florida-based Sex Worker Outreach Project also claimed there is a difference between sex work and sex trafficking.
“To go and label it a human trafficking sting is disingenuous,” said Andrews.