30 June, 2011

CSE Stats and The Village Voice

The Village Voice recently published this very belligerent article.

Taking on the stat that, "Between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today..." VV researched juvenile prostitution arrest records for the 37 largest cities in the America. Their findings:

Law enforcement records show that there were only 8,263 arrests across America for child prostitution during the most recent decade.

That's 827 arrests per year.

Some cities, such as Salt Lake City and Orlando, go an entire year without busting a child prostitute. Others, such as Las Vegas, arrest or recover 100 or so per year.

Compare 827 annually with the 100,000 to 300,000 per year touted in the propaganda.
Several problems with this.

1. Most cases of children being sold are not reported (like most rapes, domestic violence or child abuse cases)

2. Sometime the child is not charged with prostitution.

3. Arrest records are not a viable source for getting a full and accurate account of any crime (see #1).

4. Most people wouldn't be able to ID child exploitation. It is dark and hard to describe, and even harder to detect. And what if the person exploiting them is a parent? Lots of things happen at home people don't know about.

It is an incredibly ignorant article from an organization that sells adult service ads - meaning they have a reason to discredit those fighting to stop six year olds from being sold for sex.

We really have to debate this?

The stat should read: an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children in the U.S. are at-risk for commercial sexual exploitation. The truth is we don't know how many children out there are being sold, raped, exploited.

But word choice is enough for VV to attack an entire industry and discredit the work of 100s of organizations. They seemingly have an answer for each "statement" by taking those words out of context and offering paper thin, patronizing, cocky comments back. 

They do point to the need for funding for programs helping girls who have left the trade. And I will give them that. Funding in miniscule for those working with victims (especially domestic).

The problem with estimates (and that is all it is - an estimate!) Is they are hard to prove. It is an educated guess based on data, trends, and history. Also, you can find anyone to prove or disprove an estimate.

The exploitation of children is growing in this country. It masks itself in clever ways and is hidden. Organizations like VV do nothing but make it harder to get good stats, and more importantly stop, because of their off-base insulting writing (I won't call it journalism!).

A friend of mine put it this way (emphasis added):

Really there is only one estimate the authors are out to discredit: the Estes and Weiner estimate that 100,000 to 300,000 children in the U.S. are at-risk of commercial sexual exploitation. The authors expose the flimsiness of this one estimate, and show how it is often misrepresented -- with the aim of repudiating efforts of activists to combat sexual trafficking of minors in the U.S.

I'm not a fan of this estimate either (but sadly that's all that's been available).And, true, the article's authors have a point in that many people misuse this number by saying that there are 100,000 to 300,000 actual child victims of sexual trafficking in the U.S. Such a statement simply cannot be verified and held to be accurate. So, yes, Cizmar, Conklin, and Hinman have a point -- some anti-trafficking advocates recklessly overstate their case.

Yet, in mocking and acrid tones the authors take aim from everyone to Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, to Linda Smith of Shared Hope, to World Relief. How strange there's no discussion of the left-of-center organizations that get federal funding to do similar work in the U.S. Thus, one can surmise that VV is cherry picking it's moguls of the alleged child-trafficking panic.

So, what merit is there in this article?: 1) Yes, anti-trafficking estimates/statistics are generally unreliable and, sadly, often overstated. 2) Yes, the "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" Campaign is ill-conceived -- regrettably so much so that it debases the very cause it was developed to champion. 3) Yes, there is woefully inadequate funding for programs to provide shelter for trafficked persons --- be they children or adults (not that the authors ever mention human trafficking of adults). 4) Yes, we all need to work harder to provide reliable information and to ensure we are doing the best we can with the resources made available -- be they from federal or other sources.
What is trash about this article?: 1) VV purports to be so concerned about reliable estimates, yet they fail to call for more research and more investment in the resources to get reliable numbers. 2) VV picked a select handful of anti-trafficking personalities/organizations to cast as hopelessly ill-informed and/or as religious zealots -- ones that were easy targets and that suited the political tastes of their primary readership. 3) The take away point of this piece is that domestic minor sex trafficking is just a ruse many people are using to obtain federal funds, thus the rest of us on the bandwagon are their dupes hopelessly wasting our time and precious federal resources. 4) The notion that in all the frenzy no one is taking care of the victims. 5) The idea that arrests of prostituted children give a close approximation to the real status of how many children are being prostituted.

In the end, the VV article was the same kind of crap they accuse Kutcher and Moore of putting out for the other side. And let's not forget, the get lots of money from their adult services section, something that severely discredits them and makes them less that willing to be objective on this issue.