Wage community effort against human trafficking

When the Warren City Council approved restrictions on the spas in the city last year, some questioned why they would regulate these ”legal” businesses. There were and still are those who feel that those regulations and the subsequent raiding of massage parlors mid-year were a waste of time and that these efforts would have been better redirected at the ”real crime” in the area.

While I would agree that more needs to be done to prevent all crime -particularly the violent crime plaguing Warren these days – I don’t think that restrictions or closing of the spas was a waste of time or effort. Part of the criticism is a lack of understanding of the realities of human trafficking in our modern world as well as the misplaced notion that prostitution is a victimless crime.

Human Trafficking is a reality. It does exist all over the world including here in the United States. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines ”severe forms of human trafficking” as: ”The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.” According the State Department, there are 27 million slaves being held worldwide. Eighty-eight percent of those are women and children.

Seventy-nine percent of human trafficking involves sexual exploitation. Some victims are abducted outright, but many are lured out of poverty, romantically seduced or sold by their families. The average age of a victim is 13 years old. As many as 2 million children are subjected to prostitution globally.

Think about that for a minute. Two million children robbed of their innocence, often drugged, battered and beaten into submission.

Much of this does occur in other countries, but sadly it also occurs right here in our country. The U.S. State Department reports that at least 15,000 people are trafficked into the United States annually. According to the Ohio Attorney General, over 100,000 children nationwide are thought to be involved in the sex trade. Over 1,000 children in Ohio are victims of human sex trafficking and over 3,000 are at risk for becoming victims.

Clearly this is a problem in our state that needs to be addressed. Fortunately, our governor, general assembly and attorney general are trying to do just that. Ohio now has stronger laws against trafficking, and things are improving.

Regarding the closing of the spas, it is clear from what was found in the raid that at the very least, prostitution might have been occurring. It is still an open case, and it remains to be seen whether there was human trafficking. However, even if it was ”just” prostitution, this is bad enough.

Those who say that it is only prostitution are mistaken that this is not a serious crime. Human beings should not be sold. Prostitution is truly just another form of slavery.

Popular culture has fostered this myth of prostitution being a victimless crime and more often than not has even created this idealized, romanticized lie of what a prostitute’s life is. The movie ”Pretty Woman” is a good example. Think about the statistic of 100,000 children nationwide being involved in the sex trade. The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 13 to 14 years old.

Most prostitutes (some estimates are as high as 95 percent) were sexually abused as children. Most women enter into prostitution before they are legally able to consent, often damaged by previous sexual abuse. When you think about this, it is debatable whether these women can be considered as truly consenting. Additionally, most women involved in prostitution are being exploited and abused by a pimp.

The real world of prostitution is seedy, sad and hardly victimless. In the news coverage following the raid on the spas, it was reported that Warren has a reputation for prostitution. This is hardly the image we want for this area. A friend was recently telling me that years ago, Warren used to be a destination for people to come for exceptional restaurants. How sad is it that the city became a destination for sleaze instead? Furthermore, where there is prostitution, there are usually drugs and other crime.

Closing the spas did not solve all of Warren’s crime problems or even rid it of prostitution, but it was a good step in the right direction. Obviously, more needs to be done to prevent all crime in our area.

One thing that cities need to look at with regard to prostitution is what Sweden has done. The leaders in that country realized exactly who the victims are in prostitution and made their laws conform with that. The men who patronize prostitutes and the pimps are the ones who are prosecuted, and the prostitutes are given assistance in changing their lives.

In Warren, there is a ministry in the church Seeking God’s Glory that seeks to raise awareness of human trafficking as well as help rescue and restore those who are in bondage. For more information on what they are doing, email sgghtprayer@yahoo.com. For more information on human trafficking, visit the Ohio Attorney General’s Web site.

Yoder is a West Farmington resident.