I read an article last week in an online newspaper from a couple of years ago. It was about a little girl, 11 years old, that was gang raped by 17 boys raging in age from 14-27. Now if that wasn’t already one of the most horrific and disturbing things I have ever read, I find out that some people were actually blaming this child for the rape because she “dressed like a 20 year old.” I wasn’t aware that dressing like a 20 year old (whatever that means) gave anyone license to rape. As appalling as the attack is, it does bring to light the way in which some people think about women and girls; that dressing or acting a certain way is an invitation for an assault. It’s not. It’s the same mentality, the “I can do whatever I want, regardless of the cost to someone else” way of thinking that exists in the world of human trafficking as well. I think that sometimes people don’t always recognize certain individuals as trafficking victims because they put themselves in the situation (on purpose or inadvertently) that led to it. Even though this post isn’t specifically about human trafficking, I think it’s still important to be aware of sexual violence in all situations. As long as anyone continues to think they have the right to rape somebody else, sex trafficking will always exist.
As the youngest daughter of four girls, I’ve grown up constantly being told to “be careful”, “cover up” because “you don’t want to give people the wrong idea about you” and a hundred other warnings to dress as modestly as the typical American teenage girl is going to dress. I always complained about how unfair it was that boys got to run around with their shirts off in the blistering summer heat, but if I was to hang around outside just in my bathing suit then I would be, one, scolded for dressing inappropriately, and two, would be sexualized by the passing men who happened to see me. It irritated me to no end that it was okay for boys to be sexualized by the girls who saw them, but as soon as I, a female, was in that same situation, it became a safety issue. Apparently, expressing sexuality, intentional or not, can sometime be interpreted as inviting sexual advances. I, nor any woman I’ve ever talked to before, as never expressed interest in being hit on by the weird, drunk guys at the bar no matter what we’re wearing. Unfortunately, what happens is that when the advances of said creepy, drunk guy are rejected, they claim that they were “led on” and the woman can end up being sexually assaulted. Of course not all weird, drunk guys are rapists and not all rapists are drunk, weird guys (and lets not forget that men and rape men, women can rape men, and women can rape other women as well), but the fact that rape occurs with the frequency it does is extremely alarming. In the year 2012, women, or anyone for that matter, should not have to worry about the clothes they’re wearing putting them in a dangerous position. No one should ever have to worry about being taken advantage of in any situation they find themselves in.
A good portion of sex trafficking victims started out as runaways. For whatever reason, they decided to go risk life on the street rather than live in their home, if they had one to begin with. Often times these (for this article’s sake we’ll contain the conversation to teenagers and younger) kids are forced day after day to live with unthinkable violence and sexual abuse from the people that are supposed to care for them; it’s no wonder they choose life on the street instead. While living on the streets they might meet someone who promises to take care of them. They offer love, support and protection. All these runaways have to do is sleep with a few men to make some money to help their “boyfriend” out. It’s all down hill from there. Too often the girl turns into a permanent form of incoming; servicing anyone, anytime that their “boyfriend” tells them to. These kids, yes often times kids, are now trafficking victims, unless they want to engage in sex acts with their customers. Even if they don’t try to run away, even if they don’t fight it, they are victims (especially since many of these victims aren’t old enough to legally give consent anyways).
Just as no one should have to worry about certain clothing enticing an attack, no one should have to worry about being taken advantage because of the situation they’ve found themselves in. This goes beyond just women’s rights, this is a matter of human rights in general.Everyone should have the right to dress how they want, live how they want, even struggle through hard times without having to worry about predators lurking around every corner, waiting to take advantage of anyone in even a slightly vulnerable position.