PORNOGRAPHY & SEX TRAFFICKING: THE CONNECTION IS CLEAR
Published 11/03/2010 – 8:23 a.m. CST Enough is Enough recently participated in a Congressional briefing examining the harms of pornography and what Congress can do to enforce existing laws. As we continue to reflect on White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week, we are including testimonies from that event. One of the speakers, Laura J. Lederer, J.D., a leading voice in efforts to end human trafficking, examined the link between sex trafficking and illegal pornography. A snapshot of Laura’s thought-provoking comments follow (her full comments can be read on our blog).
Additionally, J. Robert Flores, Esq., former Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Department of the Department of Justice, submitted comments on behalf of Enough Is Enough to the Massachusetts Attorney General regarding the role of websites in facilitating human trafficking. A portion of his comments can be found on our blog along with a link to the full testimony.
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Comments from Laura J. Lederer, J.D.
According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sex trafficking is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” The law further defines severe forms of trafficking as 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. In other words, by our human trafficking law, any child found in a commercial sex act is per se trafficked.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that at least 12.3 million people are commercial sexual servitude or forced labor at any given time. Other experts estimate as many as 27 million people have been trafficked into sex slavery or other forms of slavery. The TIP Report also discusses child sex trafficking and related abuses, including commercial sexual exploitation of children, child prostitution, child pornography, the sale of children, and child sex tourism, all of trade every year and that approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation over the past 30 years. In Southeast Asia alone, there are currently around a million children involved in the sex industry, some younger than 10 years old. Clearly this is an industry that is taking the lives of women and children and it must be stopped.
There are numerous links between sex trafficking and illegal pornography including the following:
1. Some types of pornography actually are sex trafficking:
Pornography industry insiders note that the production of pornography often matches the very definition of “severe forms of trafficking,” – force, fraud, or coercion are used to prompt the performance of those featured in pornography. For example, teen girls, boys, and women are being recruited into the pornography industry with fraudulent promises of legitimate jobs at exaggerated pay rates. Once these victims are recruited and arrive at the trafficking destination, they are being held there by means of debt bondage, physical force and psychological coercion. Their pay for work performed is given directly to their “agent” or trafficker and these debts are deducted before any money, if any remains, is given to the victim. The victims are given the “choice” to perform “privates”, which is illegal prostitution, to pay off their debt. If the victims attempt to leave and/or speak out against the industry, they are physically and emotionally threatened to hold them captive and to keep them from seeking help from law enforcement agencies.
2. Some men are trafficking and/or exploiting women and children and recording the acts they perform.
In preliminary findings from an international case law database that Global Centurion is building, over 25% of child sex traffickers took pictures or video recordings of the rape, sodomy and sexual abuse they performed on the children. This figure is much higher if perpetrators who commit sex trafficking crimes and have pornography or child pornography are counted, since law enforcement does not often bother to distinguish whether the photos taken are of the victims or other children from other criminal activities. Click here to read several of the examples shared by Laura.
Finkelhor and Mitchell’s (2005) study of child pornography possessors arrested in Internet related crimes indicated that 40% of the men in their sample were ‘dual offenders’ who sexually victimized children and produced/possessed child pornography. In a study by the Poppy Project in the U.K., women had photographs taken of them by traffickers/pimps, for example, while a gang-rape was taking place. Women also reported that in the places they were trafficked, pornography was constantly available to men buying sex. Further, some of the women’s traffickers watched pornography regularly. These women were repeatedly raped by the traffickers, with one of these women stating that her trafficker used pornography prior to, and during, his repeated rapes of her.
3. Pornography is used in sex trafficking and the sex industry to train women and children what to do.
In a survey of 854 women and men in the sex industry in nine different countries, half of them reported that pornography was used to train them as to what to do in the sex industry. In another survey in the U.K., 35% of trafficked women were exposed to pornography in the course of being trafficked, including being shown pornography to ‘groom’ them into prostitution. Supreme Court of Canada R v Sharpe (Clough, 2008) found that there is “clear and uncontradicted” evidence that child pornography is used for grooming and seducing victims. In discussions with a former federal and state prosecutors, they indicated that in many of the cases prosecuted, the offenders utilized pornography to groom and train women and children for prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation, and other illegal sex acts. In the process of grooming, the perpetrators used pornography to create the conditions that allowed them to abuse the woman or children, and the victims were prepared gradually for the time when the offender engages in sexual molestation or rape.
4. Pornography creates and provides rationalizations for exploiters as to how and why their sexually exploitive behaviors are acceptable.
The late Norma Hotaling, a survivor of child sex trafficking in the United States, and the founder of SAGE, believed that illegal pornography and other related materials normalize prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, allowing men to more freely engage in these criminal activities. In the words of Dr. Mary Anne Layden, pornography creates “permission giving beliefs” that illegal and abhorrent sexual behavior is not harmful. Finally, my colleague, Dr. Gail Dines, has conducted more than 20 years of research on the harm of pornography to the performers used in its production, the users of the material, family systems they are part of and society as a whole.