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(or Bad Laws Make Bad Cops)

by Norma Jean Almodovar ©2004 (updated February 2006)

The “rescue and reformation” of prostitutes has always been a big business around the world. In the late 19th century, “fallen women” (prostitutes) had literally hundreds of Rescue Organizations1 vying for their souls and the money that went with that salvation. Most of those prostitutes unlucky enough to be so rescued could count on a life of slavery as inmates in the laundries, asylums and penitentiaries built by “faith based” organizations who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from the church-going public who were horrified each Sunday morning when rescue missionaries shared with them the stories of the “poor, betrayed and fallen women” of the streets.

The purpose of the rescue of prostitutes at that time was solely to save their souls, thanks to hundreds of God -fearing men and women whose calling was to reclaim those fallen women who had strayed from the paths of virtue. The rescued prostitutes were told that their incarceration in the asylums and laundries was “for their own good.”

It wasn’t until the mid 1990’s when an inadvertent act of greed- on the part of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity who operated the last of the Magdalen Laundries in Ireland- uncovered the scandal of the Magdalen laundresses (Maggies as they were called) whose slave labor had enriched the coffers of the local Catholic Churches there for well over 100 years. Not unlike the current situation with pedophiliac priests whose criminal behavior is overlooked by the Church itself until the media exposes individual cases, the Church refused to acknowledge its dereliction in the enslavement of thousands of young women- many of them prostitutes- for the “crime” of being a sexual woman- until the scandal was exposed by the BBC and subsequently in the US by “60 Minutes.”

In the later part of the twentieth century, a curious phenomenon occurred: the far left radical feminists, who had been for many years preaching the gospel of prostitution as a violation of human rights and sexual exploitation- got in bed with religious conservatives who were all too happy to accept the new wording for their age old moral crusade against sin and immoral behavior. The religious conservatives had, for the most part, lost the public’s sympathy with their crusade against other personal vices such as homosexuality and abortion that inspired their big money contributors, and needed a new holy war to rake in the cash. After all, the crusade against prostitution had generated plenty of money in the past, but the wording of their cause needed to be altered just a bit to be accepted by the general populace who might recoil at yet another “moral” campaign against sexual behavior. The radical feminists were right there with open arms to embrace them, and had the language already constructed for their joint venture.

“Anti- trafficking” now meant a fight against the sexual degradation of women- not the fight against immoral behavior as it was almost a century earlier, and thus the public could be persuaded that it was imperative and fully justified to raise and spend of millions upon millions of dollars to “rescue” the sexually exploited. Whose heart strings wouldn’t be stirred at the thought of young children and women forced to perform sexual acts upon evil, lust-filled men? And who wouldn’t be justifiably disturbed by the idea of greedy pimps making billions of dollars off the sale and trafficking of those poor, exploited persons?

“Sexual exploitation” is a subjective concept and requires the use of other inflammatory and deceitful words to reinforce it. So radical feminists and religious conservatives adopted a take no prisoners approach, and simply disallowed from being heard the voices of sex worker rights activists who favor decriminalization of all private, consenting adult commercial sex.

Radical feminists and religious conservatives insist that no distinction be made between consenting adult commercial sex and true sexual slavery. Using skewed law enforcement statistics- which also do not differentiate between consenting adult prostitutes and those persons of any age who are coerced into sex slavery- the global community is duped into believing that there are possibly millions of trafficked victims worldwide who are nothing short of “modern day slaves.” Without clarification, these statistics are truly alarming and shocking- and certainly when there is force, fraud and underage persons involved, it is without a doubt a very serious problem.

Imagine the problems in the enforcement of laws if the law made no distinction between rape, child sexual abuse and consenting adult sex; imagine that the law considered that consensual sex with adult women was no different in terms of the law than sex with a minor, and that all women who engaged in sex were rape victims regardless of their consent or relationship with their sex partner- and imagine further that to find these "victims of rape," we authorized the police to conduct sting operations during which they or men they paid had sex with women who allowed themselves to be "picked up" and seduced- and then the men and or police officers get to testify against the "victim of rape" so that she could be convicted and sent to jail- to protect her for her own good... just exactly how would it help the real victims of rape and child sexual abuse to arrest every adult person who engaged in consensual sex?

So, my question is, if the above scenario sounds ludicrous, why does the government (and radical feminists and Christian conservatives) contend that arresting the allegedly trafficked victim and consenting adult prostitute alike is a viable solution for eliminating sexual exploitation as it applies to prostitution? If it worked, shouldn’t this "viable solution" be applied to the victims of rape and domestic violence?

Radical leftist feminists like Melissa Farley, Donna Hughes and Janice Raymond, with their selective concern for prostitutes, contend that because "violence is pervasive in legal as well as illegal prostitution" we should continue to prohibit all prostitution and in fact attempt to abolish ANY prostitution. [again, correlating this to the violence in marriage and indeed all interpersonal and work relationships, why aren't these feminists demanding the abolition of marriage or prohibiting women in the workplace to end this violence?]

For the sake of argument, let's say that all 18,000 to 20,000 purported victims of trafficking into the US were women and children, and all were forced into sex slavery. That number still doesn't come close to the number of cases of rape, domestic and workplace violence (including that which is perpetrated by women) or spousal and child abuse in this country.

In 1999, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that "Estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) indicate that in 1999 persons age 12 or older experienced about 791,210 violent crimes by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. Intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women. During 1999 females experienced 671,110 (85%) such violent victimizations; males, 120,100 (15%)." Also, in 2003-2004, there were an average annual 204,370 victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.

"By the most conservative estimate, each year 1 million women suffer nonfatal violence by an intimate.
Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Su
rvey (NCJ-154348), August 1995, p. 3. By other estimates, 4 million American women experience a serious assault by an intimate partner during an average 12-month period. American Psychl. Ass'n, Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), p. 10."

"The American Medical Association estimates that over 4 million women are victims of severe assaults by boyfriends and husbands each year. About 1 in 4 women is likely to be abused by a partner in her lifetime.
(Sara Glazer, "Violence Against Women," CQ Researcher, Congressional Quarterly Inc., Vol. 3, No. 8, Feb. 1993, p.171.)"

Despite the varying statistics on domestic violence, it seems to me that marriage is still much more potentially harmful to women than selling something they can otherwise legally give away. By applying the current government "solution" of prohibition (to ending sexual exploitation as it applies to prostitution) to marriage and interpersonal relationships, would any of these statistics be reduced? Could we even begin to implement such a radical (and illogical) solution?

And workplace violence appears to be as problematic and potentially harmful to women as domestic violence. It seems that women are just not safe at home or at work- and these women are not prostitutes, just regular working women in legal occupations. To protect all women from such potential dangers, perhaps we need to lock ourselves up and keep all men away from us!

According to the National Security Institute:

"WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One in six violent crimes occurs in the work place, according to a Department of Justice study released. The Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) said an estimated 7 percent of all rapes, 8 percent of all robberies and 16 percent of all assaults occur at work. The data are from an analysis of work place crime from 1987 through 1992 gathered through the National Criminal Victimization Survey of U.S. households.

"The work place is the scene of almost 1 million violent crimes every year," said Acting BJS Director Lawrence A. Greenfeld. "About 10 percent--or 100,000--of these violent workplace crimes involve offenders armed with handguns."

Of the approximately 3.2 million violent crimes and thefts in the work place, about 500,000 victims lose an estimated 1.8 million workdays each year and $55 million in lost wages, not including days covered by sick and annual leave, the study said."

And according to the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, "An average of 1.7 million people were victims of violent crime while working or on duty in the United States, according to a report published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), each year from 1993 through 1999. An estimated 1.3 million (75%) of these incidents were simple assaults while an additional 19% were aggravated assaults. Of the occupations examined, police officers, corrections officers, and taxi drivers were victimized at the highest rates." [Notice that there are no statistics listed for assaults on prostitutes, even though prostitution is a legal profession in some counties in Nevada, but that police work and taxi driving are extremely dangerous professions...]

The fact is, modern day slavery encompasses many forms of coerced labor besides prostitution, such as sweatshops. According to a November 1, 2005 article by AP reporter David Crary "Victims have come from at least 50 countries in almost every part of the world and are trafficked to virtually every state - to clandestine factories, restaurants, farms, massage parlors, even private homes where women and girls are kept in servitude." Surely if it would lead to the abolition of sweatshops, forced domestic service, forced farm and construction labor our wise leaders would pass laws prohibiting all commercial garment manufacturing, domestic servitude, construction, farming and every other industry into which trafficked victims are forced to work, and cops would set up sting operations to arrest all persons caught working in any of these potentially exploitative, dangerous occupations, wouldn't they?

And to reduce or eliminate the "demand side" of such exploitation -and violence- perhaps all adults should be required -to do their own cleaning, cooking, farming (growing their own fruits and vegetables, slaughtering their own chickens and cows just like the good old days), construction-, garment sewing and of course, we must restrict all sexual activity to that which produces off- spring within government approved marriages. As Josephine Butler said in 1896, "Something must be done, and that 'something' is that men must learn to live virtuously." Those men who have no government approved sex partners (wives) because they are unmarried- widowed, divorced, disabled, socially inept- should be given drugs to prevent sexual urges and be monitored for any signs of biological appetites. As we know, women don't have any sexual needs or appetites so they needn't be supervised or be admonished to live virtuously. Yeah right!

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