Did you know that January 11th is — and last week, was — something called “National Human Trafficking Awareness Day”?
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11)
Apparently, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which began in 2010, aims to “bring attention to a crime that leaves a lasting toll on human life, families and communities around the world.”
About material states that, “Human trafficking is considered a modern form of slavery. This illegal act involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or sex. Traffickers use violence, manipulation, or false promises to lure their victims into trafficking situations. Trafficking victims usually experience physical and/or psychological abuse. They might also endure sexual abuse, food and sleep deprivation, threats to family members, and isolation from the outside world. Family members of the victim may also get threatened.”
Bringing attention to human trafficking via January 11th has permeated all sorts of platforms. Attorneys from District of Oregon (which means the state of Oregon) participated even with a press release that stated, “Today, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon commemorates National Human Trafficking Awareness Day — January 11, 2022 — and joins its federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement partners in declaring a continued commitment to combating all forms of human trafficking.”
“More than 150 years have passed since our nation ratified the 13th Amendment, abolishing the cruel and repugnant practice of enslaving humans. And yet, in its modern form of trafficking, this abhorrent crime persists here in the US and across the globe. Combatting human trafficking is a top priority for the Justice Department and our office. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will do everything in our power to end this horrible crime,” Scott Erik Asphaug, US Attorney for the District of Oregon, said in the press release.
Sex Work & Human Trafficking: NOT the Same
I feel confident in saying that no rational person thinks human trafficking is okay. Clearly people exploit others in this manner, but I would argue that people who subject other humans to this sort of abuse aren’t actually humans themselves — so, the fact that they seem to think it’s okay by engaging in the act of coercion et al renders these evil people not rational at all.
However, as abhorrent as we can all agree that human trafficking is, there is a major point of contention to be discussed here: conflating human trafficking with sex work. These two things are not the same.
Last week, representatives from ESPLERP and the US PROStitutes Collective called foul on human trafficking awareness campaigns that conflate human trafficking with sex work and, thereby, also target “people of color, immigrants and the unhoused.” You can read more press material from the organizations below, including information about counter-campaigns.
There are many, many different branches to sex work. Online content creation is one of them, alongside various forms of in-person work. It’s important to be aware of wider social misunderstandings regarding various branches of sex work, as those misunderstandings can very easily slip over and be applied to every other branch.
All sex workers should be aware of significant issues like this that impact co-workers in other branches of the industry — because when it comes to misunderstanding sex work by the mainstream, it’s a very quick step from one branch to the next.
Press material follows.
Sex Workers Call Foul on Harmful, Dangerous “Human Trafficking Awareness” Campaigns
Sex workers across California are calling foul on January 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day saying that law enforcement agencies routinely use so-called “anti-trafficking” campaigns as an excuse to round-up sex workers, primarily people of color, immigrants and the unhoused.
A ground-breaking report from the USC Gould Human Rights Clinic released in October shows that “trafficking” raids, sweeps and stings primarily target consenting adults, not traffickers or survivors of trafficking. It documents verbal, physical and sexual abuse by police during these operations while actual victims don’t get help.
Law enforcement, in concert with faith-based rescue groups and anti-trafficking non-profits, are using human trafficking campaigns as an excuse to arrest sex workers trying to make a living. These are not rescue missions, but morality-fueled vice campaigns that devastate the lives of sex workers. This January 11, sex workers are refusing to be exploited by law enforcement and government agencies in order to secure greater publicity and funding for their departments.
The media must not be complicit in this campaign of erasure and eradication. Year after year, we see the media report these campaigns based solely on the false information provided by government agencies, law enforcement, and anti-trafficking non-profits and faith-based rescue groups dedicated to eradicating sex work entirely.
Every year, the Super Bowl is used as an excuse to violently arrest sex workers under the guise of anti-trafficking raids. This year, Los Angeles will host Super Bowl LVl. The Stop the Raids committee has been set up by sex workers and others to fight back with education campaigns for the public and the media to disrupt the lies.
Sex workers demand decriminalization! More info on our messaging can be found at https://stoptheraids.org
Erika is a sex positive people watcher (and writer). Email her at email@example.com.
Image via Unsplash here.