When we talk about prostitution people will more often then not think of it as a choice based only on the belief that she is willing and likes it. When we talk about human trafficking we understand that it is a process of force, fraud and coercion as well as grooming and the breaking down of will. These seem like two totally different situations but really, they’re not that different. The decision of prostitution is made because of a circumstance whether it be poverty, lack of sustainable employment, mental illness or addiction. Whatever that thing is, it’s a coercion into prostitution. Women don’t inherently want to do it, it’s not a career path, it’s either a means for survival or feeding an addiction that has overcome their lives and now they are slaves to it. Much like human trafficking, women and girls are slaves to men who mean to do them great harm, so the same with prostitution. In this sense they are slaves but not only to men but to their circumstance or their addiction.
The pathway into drug addiction varies from female to female but once they’ve gotten to the point where they can’t live without it, their decisions become darker and darker. These are not willing participants, ladies of the evening or the happy hooker that is loving life serving men’s perverse sexual needs. These women are victims too, maybe not in the same way human trafficking survivors were but there is an element of sexual exploitation and abuse. Instead of money exchanging hands, it’s their body that is used for monetary gain in order to feed the habit they can’t break. Eventually they will be found having overdosed and written off as just another dead prostitute with no name and no humanity. If we are going to remember the survivors or those that didn’t survive being trafficked then why can’t we do the same for women who were willing victims to a drug addiction that they never intended or are trying to survive? We can’t favor one because it’s the cool hot issue and celebrities have become advocates against just to boost their public image. Especially when most of Hollywood glorifies prostitution. These are all women fighting for their lives in one form or another and to say that one group deserves more attention than the other is categorizing them into a marginal frame that sounds good to society at large while shaming and stigmatizing them.
Women are chastised much more when it comes to drug addiction because it leads them to a life of prostitution filled with sexual abuse and exploitation just to feed the need. In this instance women are judged harshly and are always looked at as a prostitute not worthy of help, healing or services. They are re-victimized and re-traumatized and most times end up back on the streets. Human trafficking victims suffer similarly when they also experience re-victimization and re-traumatization by programs or agencies that claim to help but keep them interdependent only to cut them off and lead them back into the streets. If we stop categorizing and separating and look at every case with a no judgement and neutral prospective we will see that it’s all intertwined in the spider web of addiction and sexual slavery. Every woman that you see out on the streets selling herself or being sold is because of a circumstance, addiction or force, fraud and coercion. It really doesn’t matter how, what matters is that we see them all the same. Their situations may seem different but the suffering, exploitation and abuse look exactly the same. Let’s stop glorify one while being shocked and angry at the other because if the sex trade doesn’t differentiate, then we shouldn’t either.
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