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Inherent trauma

Society | Trafficking survivors and advocates push back against efforts to legalize prostitution
by Mary Jackson
Posted 2/14/20, 04:23 pm

Throughout the United States, anti-sex-trafficking groups are working to hold back a growing wave of support for decriminalizing prostitution. During a 14-hour hearing in October about whether to legalize the sex trade in Washington, D.C., Helen Taylor held up a pair of metallic platform heels that a prostitute had given her after exiting the sex industry, calling them her “former shackles.”

Taylor, director of outreach and intervention at the nonprofit group Exodus Cry, and others convinced the Council of the District of Columbia to shelve the bill. But the wave continues. This week, lawmakers in Vermont and New York introduced similar statewide proposals for decriminalizing prostitution.

Proponents say decriminalization would remove the stigma that prevents sex workers from seeking police protection and healthcare.

“The underlying question is do we need to criminalize consensual sex between adults on any terms?” said Vermont Rep. Selene Colburn, a member of the Vermont Progressive Party and lead sponsor of the bill.

But human-trafficking survivors and groups that advocate on their behalf say decriminalization would only enable abusers, increase the demand for prostitution, and encourage sex tourism. They argue that engaging in sex for money is far from consensual.

“The [sex industry] chews up and spits out women,” Taylor said. “The very existence of money proves that coercion is present.”

Decriminalization measures have made little headway so far in states and cities such as New York, Maine, Massachusetts, and San Francisco. In New York, groups like DecrimNY are pushing lawmakers to reform prostitution laws, including repealing penalties for loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution, which they argue leads to people being harassed based on their appearance. Que English, the founder of the New York nonprofit group Not on My Watch, said decriminalization would “open the floodgates for sex establishments who want to set up shop in New York.”

In the United States, legal prostitution occurs in only eight counties in Nevada, where it’s permitted in about 20 licensed brothels. Nevada has the nation’s highest rate of illegal sex trade—63 percent more than New York’s and double that of Florida, according to a 2018 study by the Human Trafficking Initiative.

“Once you normalize the sex trade, it explodes,” said Eleanor Gaetan, director of government relations at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “To satisfy demand, the sex trade has to lure in vulnerable people, because there are never enough women willing to be exploited and degraded in prostitution.”

A 2013 academic study of 150 countries by the London School of Economics showed a link between legalizing prostitution and increased rates of human trafficking. Some advocates in the Netherlands are pushing to end legalized prostitution, which the country has allowed since 2000.

The liberal National Organization of Women opposes full decriminalization and instead advocates for lighter penalties for those who are prostituted and stronger punishment for people who purchase sex or benefit financially from the trade. The World Health Organization supports decriminalization.

Gaetan said decriminalization advocates ignore the trauma inherent in prostitution. One nine-country study found that 68 percent of prostitutes experience post-traumatic stress disorder at the same severity level as combat veterans and victims of state torture.

“The normalization of the sex industry will only harm people and target the most vulnerable,” Gaetan said. “It can’t be made safe or less violent. That’s why we fight it hard.”

Associated Press/Photo by Pat Eaton-Robb Associated Press/Photo by Pat Eaton-Robb From left: Alanna Smith, Selina Soule, and and Chelsea Mitchell outside the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford on Wednesday

Female runners fight back

The families of three Connecticut high school girls filed a federal lawsuit this week attempting to block transgendered athletes in the state from participating in girls sports.

Runners Selina Soule of Glastonbury High School, Alanna Smith of Danbury High School, and Chelsea Mitchell of Canton High School complained that competing against male athletes who identify as female has deprived them of scholarship opportunities and track titles.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday at the U.S. District Court of Connecticut, claims that the state’s high school athletic governing body is violating Title IX, the federal law designed to ensure equal opportunities for women and girls in education and school-based athletics.

“Forcing them to compete against boys isn’t fair, shatters their dreams, and destroys their athletic opportunities,” said Christiana Holcomb, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, the nonprofit legal firm representing the plaintiffs. “Having separate boys and girls sports has always been based on biological differences, not what people believe about their gender, because those differences matter for fair competition.”

Two sprinters who are biologically male but identify as female have combined to win 15 girls state championship titles and their victories have taken away more than 85 opportunities for biological girls to participate in higher-level competitions in the last three years, according to the lawsuit.

“It was definitely frustrating and disheartening to be right there, running for the biggest honors in the state, and to work so hard and try so hard to be the best in the state,” Mitchell told The Daily Signal. She lost four girls state championships and two all–New England titles to boys who identify as girls.

Holcomb said the state athletics policy on transgender competitors forces girls to be spectators in their own sports and “reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.” —M.J.

YouTube/Bridgeway Community Church–Columbia Campus YouTube/Bridgeway Community Church–Columbia Campus John Ortberg

Poor judgment’

John Ortberg, a megachurch pastor and popular evangelical Christian author, has come under fire for allowing a church volunteer who admitted to sexual attraction to minors to continue working with children.

Elders from the 6,000-member Menlo Church in the Bay Area of California said the Presbyterian pastor betrayed a “bond of trust” by failing to tell staff or church members about a meeting he and his wife, Nancy, had in July 2018 with an unnamed volunteer who confessed to unwanted attraction toward children. “The person assured, to John’s satisfaction, that the person had not acted on the attraction and sought John’s support,” church elders said in a statement obtained by Religion News Service. “John believed the person and provided prayers and referrals for counseling.”

Ortberg has apologized for his actions and is now undergoing a period of “restoration,” according to church leaders. He went on personal leave in November. The statement did not disclose how the church learned about Ortberg’s actions. But Ortberg’s daughter, who now identifies as a man and legally goes by the name Danny Mallory Lavery, posted a message on Twitter claiming responsibility for reporting Ortberg to church authorities.

Menlo Church leaders said they hired an independent investigator and found no evidence of misconduct, but the investigation showed Ortberg exhibited “poor judgment” that was inconsistent with his pastoral responsibilities. —M.J.

Associated Press/Photo by Wilfredo Lee (file) Associated Press/Photo by Wilfredo Lee (file)

Facebook Dating on hold across the pond

Facebook halted the launch of its dating service in Europe, which was planned for the eve of Valentine’s Day, because it had not provided Irish regulators with an assessment of its data protection.

The Irish government conducted an inspection of Facebook’s offices in Dublin after learning on Feb. 3 that the U.S. company intended to introduce the feature to the European Union.

“We were very concerned that this was the first that we’d heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature, considering that it was their intention to roll it out tomorrow,” the Irish Data Protection Commission said in a statement released on Wednesday and obtained by CNN.

Facebook Dating launched in the United States in September. It gives users the option to create a dating profile and matches them based on interests, preferences, friend groups, and a new “secret crush” feature. —M.J.

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and reporter for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Geenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area. Follow her on Twitter @mbjackson77.

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  • NEWS2ME
    Posted: Sat, 02/15/2020 12:08 pm

    'Poor Judgment' - Is that not like taking an alcoholic to a bar and setting a drink in front of him when he says he won't drink? Or taking a gambler to a Las Vegas gambling casino? What makes people think that pastors make good counselors?

  • NEWS2ME
    Posted: Sat, 02/15/2020 03:11 pm

    Famale runners fight back

    Good for them and others who follow. It has been proven that men and women are different, otherwise there would be more women football players.

    Our gov't has for too long given in to the whims of people who pretend to be women. Our gov't also gives in to frivolous lawsuits (not referring to the above). Like lawsuits in Alaska against Palin. Why was it ok for Obama's minions to go after Palin because she stood up to him. It's what thugs do. The liberal thugs have been after Trump since before he took office. They bad mouth anyone who works with Trump so they will quit. It's who the liberals are. It's how they operate. They are racist so they point to anyone who is not liberal and say they are racist. (I found the political parallel to all this in the UK very unnerving.)

  • NEWS2ME
    Posted: Sat, 02/15/2020 03:24 pm

    The World Health Organization supports decriminalization. (this is my shocked face)

    They must be making money off the sex trade. 

    Does prostitution and abortion go hand in hand? (shocked again)

    So women who complained all these years about freedom for women have come down to them making money off this as well.

    I guess we women are no better than men when it comes to running the world. It's nothing personal, it's just business.

  • krelf
    Posted: Sat, 02/15/2020 08:34 pm

    Regarding the decriminalization of prostitution: this should NOT happen without the criminalization of the purchase of sex by patrons or the selling of sex by pimps.  The Nordic model of attacking the problem of prostitution  shows promise in reducing the incidence of prostitution. Prostitutes are not charged with crime, but instead are offered support services to leave the industry.  Patrons and pimps instead are the ones charged with criminal activity.  The effect of this two-pronged approach is to reduce demand for prostitution.  I would hope that the Nordic model would also be applied to human trafficking.  Here's an article link for more information:   https://nordicmodelnow.org/what-is-the-nordic-model/.

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