Trafficking

Home Trafficking

The State Is A Trafficker: Why Alaska Arrested Amber Batts

Anchorage, Alaska (via Flickr user paxson_woelber)
Anchorage, Alaska. (image via Flickr user paxson_woelber)

On April 4, 2014, Anchorage Police Department officers responded to a report of a “hysterical female.”  The woman reported that she had lost her purse and she believed her coworker had taken it.  In response, she’d threatened to tell the police about the “prostitution ring” they were involved in, and her coworker had threatened to assault her if she did.  Three months later, officers with the Alaska State Trooper’s Special Crimes Investigative Unit decided to follow up with that “hysterical female.”  They did so by flying to the town where she was then working independently and booking an escort session with her.

“Oh baby,” an officer can be heard moaning in a recording of the encounter,“I’ve never had that before.”

Moments later, other members of the Special Crimes Investigative Unit can be heard entering the room and putting the woman in handcuffs.  Under Alaska state law, which has redefined all prostitution as sex trafficking, the woman is a sex trafficking victim.  In the incident report, she is listed as a victim.  She called 911 and reported that she was, by their definition, a sex trafficking victim, and they chose to follow up on that by what sounded like having sexual contact of some sort with her during a prostitution sting operation.

Feminist Whore’s Horrifying, Must-Watch Video

This is why none of the sex workers I know trust or support Salvation Army.

Feminist Whore has taken the time to go down the rabbit hole to examine some of the groups and actions supported by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s anti-trafficking efforts, and what she uncovers is stomach turning beyond belief. This video is required viewing for anyone who wants to claim any knowledge about sex trafficking and the responses it inspires. But here are some highlights:

Top 10 Anti-Sex Trafficking Campaigns

I’m a little nervous to have been tasked with following in the footsteps of Kat’s outrageously hysterical Top 10 Anti-Sex Work Billboards. Mostly just because hers was so good but also because, as Kutchergate proved, anyone who criticizes the methodology around anti-trafficking measures may be automatically labeled a trafficking-loving monster. But I’ve probably already made my bed on that front, and dammit, somebody’s got to talk about how ridiculous these ads are.

10. I couldn’t rank this project higher because I couldn’t get too far into the website with either Safari or Chome and I think Lion is destroying my computer. What I did get to see was a super cute guy sucking on his fingers and grabbing his crotch, which totally did it for me even though I’m sure he was mistaking me for a man. Then I came back for seconds and got a Suicide Girl with a rockin’ bod dancing around like she was in a music video. (I suspect the video might be for that great rock classic, “Surprise! She seems willing but you’re a rapist.”)

“Dragged Off By The Hair”: An Indian Sex Worker Recalls a Raid

VAMP members after the raid (Photo by Dale Bangkok, courtesy of Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers)
VAMP members after the raid (Photo by Dale Bangkok, courtesy of Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers)

Sitting in a warm room in Phnom Penh with several other women from the Asia Pacific region, Kamalabai Pani, a sex worker and a board member of Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP, Prostitutes’ Collective Against Injustice) in India, became visibly upset when discussion turned to the efforts of U.S.-led feminist groups to discredit several United Nations bodies’ recommendations to decriminalize sex work in support of HIV prevention. These recommendations have been welcomed by sex worker-led groups as they believe criminalization endangers not only condom use but their very livelihoods.

In their writings and speeches, Western feminist groups have used the tactic of labeling sex worker collectives—essentially a form of trade union—as “promoters of prostitution” and “traffickers.” This lack of logic infuriates sex worker union advocates and the impact on sex workers’ lives is far more severe.

A warm woman with a demeanor of quiet strength, Pani spoke with anger recalling the raid on the VAMP community on May 20th, 2005. “These guys came to our brothel area and gave out contraceptives and sweets. Then they asked us details about the girls, how much they studied and things like that. The next day, a Friday, then came the police. There were about 40 people in plain clothes, 20-30 police in six vehicles that came to the red light area of Gokulnagar. They blocked off about five lanes and the houses. They did not ask us anything, they just came in.”

Quote of the Week

The first assumption is that sex trafficking is a unique problem […] distinct to trafficking for other forms of forced labour, and therefore needs to be addressed separately. […T]he uniqueness of sex trafficking is justified through arguments that the sex industry is not a normal or legitimate industry.

The second assumption inherent within ‘the claim’ is that men’s demand for commercial sex services must be addressed in order to combat trafficking. […T]he demand for products such as footwear and orange juice is not attacked as a cause of trafficking, despite the existence of trafficking victims within the garment and agricultural industries.

The assumption that demand must be addressed in order to prevent trafficking implies a specific policy solution, but only in the context of sex trafficking. It implies that it is necessary to abolish domestic prostitution in order to address sex trafficking.

Yes, it’s a long one, but Erin O’Brien’s thesis (via Scarlet Alliance) is engrossing—and another example of someone investigating trafficking stats well before The Village Voice. It includes references to Shared Hope International, which Feminist Whore touched on in her video.

I hope many people read this, including you know who and Michelle Goldberg, who will be reassured to know that evidence suggest US decision-makers act on ideology and are not particularly concerned with statistics.  (“Research does not necessarily drive policy in the United States. [Carol Smolenski of ECPA] believes that due to a lack of research on the topic, legislators are more likely to act on the justification that ‘I’ve heard this thing happened, this is a bad thing so let’s do something about it.'”)