A few days back, an article appeared in the Fairfax Times, the newspaper distributed amongst citizens of Fairfax County, Virginia. It covered a talk given by a detective who works to shut down human traffickers and human trafficking rings. As Northern Virginia is one of the top 5 hubs of human trafficking in the USA, it is important work. However, the title of the article raised my ire enough that I sent the following letter to the Editor.
Re: “Police: Teens selling themselves for sex after school”, January 29, 2015
I was both pleased and dismayed to see this article in the newspaper a few days ago. Pleased, as human trafficking is an issue that needs more discussion. Dismayed (and I’m sure Det. Bill Woolf was too) because the headline was so incredibly inaccurate and misleading.
Victims of sex trafficking do not sell themselves; they are sold by their trafficker. This is a vital distinction. The statement “selling themselves” implies an action done on one’s own free will. The girls referred to in the article have been manipulated, coerced, possibly threatened, and exploited. Sex trafficking is a form of human slavery.
As Det. Woolf stated, victims of sex trafficking suffer greatly both physically and mentally. You do them a further disservice by allowing readers to think of them as willing prostitutes, a distinction which carries shame and judgment.
I urge you, in an effort to raise awareness about this horrendous crime, to address the error in this headline. The first step in ending human trafficking is to be accurately informed. We owe that to the young girls trafficked in our county.
For Further Information on Human Trafficking: