Over the last several months the plight of women in the global sex trade has been on my heart. I have been exposed to several films, lectures and sermons on the subject and each time my heart just breaks. I feel the need to write about it not only to possibly inform some my readers but also for a selfish reason. It pains me too much not to speak out for these women. I am not under any false illusions that some silly blog post is going to make a difference (although you never know), but maybe this is just the beginning for me, maybe there is a reason that this has been such a burden on my heart. I don’t know, but bear with me.
Because the global trade in sex is such a huge issue, I am only going to focus on the United States for right now. Hopefully in the future I will expand to a global view, but there is a huge problem right here in our back yard. The people we know, the kids we see, the men we work with and see everyday. It is not just a problem for third world countries, it is not only in the ghettos of our cities, it is not just drug addicts involved. It is here and now and it is people we all know.
In the United States about two-thirds of female prostitutes come from middle-class to upper middle-class families, although they tend to live in poverty following their entrance into the sex trade. More women prostitutes are white than minorities, yet minority arrests vastly outnumber those of whites. The average age that a prostitute begins this nightmare is between thirteen and fourteen years old and most are involved for about 4 years. Some studies show that up to 70% of men have paid for sex at least once.
These are staggering numbers to me. They show that this is not an inner city problem. This is not a minority problem. This is not something we can keep at arms length thinking that it does not affect us in our nice suburban homes. This is a blight on society that touches every sector of America.
If you are like me, when you picture a prostitute, you see the street walking woman, in heals and a tiny outfit, strung out and hanging out on the corner. If you are like me, you see the drug-addled woman from movies or an episode of COPS. While these mental images do expose one side of this issue, it only a small part of the overall picture. Studies show that more than 50% of prostitution is of the indoor variety. More women are involved in massage parlors, escort services, stripping, and private parties than are actually out walking the streets. It is something many do in private. In our world today it takes only a phone call or email to deliver a prostitute to your door faster than you could order a pizza.
The life of an average woman involved in this business is obviously hard, and not only while she is on the job. Depending on where the polls are taken between 35-85% of these women are victims of incest or other early sexual abuse. Many are raped 8 to 10 times a year and the vast majority report being assaulted, robbed, and victimized regularly. Pimps will keep stables of underage women hostage throughout the day in dingy rented rooms or apartments only to let them out at night to ply their trade. Often going without food, sanitation, or basic human needs, these woman look up to their pimps because while often they might only get a sack of fast food before hitting the streets, they get it from the only person who seems to care at all about them. They have nowhere else to go, no one to turn to, but the man who sole purpose is to make money off of their abuse.
Woman in the sex trade experience post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) at a rate of 69%. Combat war veterans exhibit symptoms of PTSD at exactly the same rate. This means that the life of a prostitute is so vile, so disturbing, that its effects are just as damaging to her as the effects of bloody combat on a soldier at war. It is horrendous and it is happening to our kids, our neighbors and it is being perpetrated by people we know. Our friends and family members. Don’t kid yourself, this is real. Closing our eyes and pretending that it is just “them” is naive and irresponsible.
What can we do? We can start by demystifying it. We can open the discussion. We can be informed. We can confront those we know are involved. We can understand that these are people, human beings. These are women who are somebody’s daughters. Someone held them and loved them at some point, or should have. These people are not just “things” to be used up and thrown away. Have we become so calloused that we can look at a human being and think like that? I think we have. My heart breaks.
I am not an expert, just a guy. I am including links to some mainstream news stories on this issue. please take a few minutes, and just check some of them out for yourself.
New York Times – “The sex Trade in America”
U.S. Department of Justice – “Sex Tourism”