I just came from a one-hour talk given by Governor Christie of New Jersey held by the McCain Institute in advance of the Super Bowl. A thinly veiled attempt to cover sex trafficking, it soon became clear it was a bid to conjoin McCain and Christie in their attempts to reorient the Republican Party. It wasn't long before the Obama-bashing started.
I attend these events for a few reasons. First, to network with others who work helping women in the sex industry. Next, I attend to keep my eye on legislation, because this is where I find our sneaky politicians, in the "helping guise" of passing legislation to "protect" victims, often make prostitution a felony. How can it possibly help to further criminalize sex workers? Who in their right mind would put the scarlet F for felony on any sex worker?
However, today Christie made some interesting points. He talked about the sexploitation found on backpage.com, which is home to many women who, many believe, are trafficked. He said that while they have first amendment rights (and New Jersey lost that battle), we have first amendment rights to publicly shame them for their actions. So there's that.
While I stay out of the political fray, we must ensure that we don't let legislators pass more draconian prostitution laws in the guise of "helping." Here is what I walked away with after talking to some of those at today's event who work to prevent sex trafficking.
- Until a few years ago when big wigs got involved and politicized trafficking, no one gave a hoot about women in the sex industry. Some seem to use the issue as a great way to get a sound bite.
- The bulk of most trafficking efforts are aimed at victims under the age of 18. One minister I spoke with basically ignored me when I said that women 18 and over are also victims, many now as one law enforcement official opined, "Stockholm survivors." The bulk of resources in Arizona now go to those under 18, it appears. What makes it magically different when you turn 18?
- Denominations who work in helping women escape seem not to play well with other denominations. Why does that not surprise me?
- Super Bowl? Christie spoke of the problems associated surrounding major sports events and ties to trafficking. Here's a news flash: Women and girls are trafficked year round. The Super Bowl makes no difference in their lives; it's just another location for them to be exploited.