Using a recent study on trafficking sponsored by the Women’s Funding Network, an article on Twincities.com warns how common is the problem of trafficking in teenage girls:
If I told you more adolescent girls in Minnesota are exploited in the state’s commercial sex trade in one month than all females murdered in one year, what would you say?
In fact, they number more than women who died of AIDS-related complications or female infants who died from sudden infant death syndrome in one year in the Gopher State.
The study, Adolescent Girls in the United States Sex Trade, claims to use “scientific probability methods” to count the number of adolescent girls commercially available for sex through on-line classified ads and escort agencies in Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan, and New York.
The first guiding principle of the study?
There is no way to study directly—to make contact with—girls being commercially sexually exploited. Even if it were possible to keep researchers safe, it would be absolutely impossible to ensure the safety of the child subject.
Essentially, it’s a study of ads placed on classified sites and calls to escort agencies wherein the age of the women is unknown, but identified as fitting the description of “young”. At that point, it is assumed, based on another experiment designed to supply “previous experience”, that 38% of those women are under 18 years old.
With this “previous experience” in hand, we can reliably determine how many of the “young” girls we record through the various study methodologies are actually under age 18, and thus victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children.
That statement would be true if only they replaced the words “reliably determine” with estimate, which is really the only conclusion this study is capable of generating.
While the study claims to “count” victims of sexual exploitation, it doesn’t really count so-called victims at all. In fact, they have no way of knowing the actual age of any of the girls or the circumstances under which they operate. In the part of the study dealing with escorts, “young” is defined as under 22 years old which is beyond the age of adolescence by almost any definition and six years beyond the age of consent in Minnesota. Even identifying the services being advertised is dependent on a semantic dance, since ads don’t come right out and offer intercourse for money.
So what was the staggering result for the state of Minnesota? Over a period of one month they estimate that 102 underage girls were available for commercial sex either through classified ads or through escort services.
The study does make an interesting observation about craigslist after it instituted changes in response to various political pressure groups in 2008:
As the number of ads plunged on Craigslist, the number of ads on Backpage, and others rose dramatically, such that now there is enough content on these sites to include these them in the counts. Very few of the ads on these sites are duplicates of Craigslist advertisers: less than 5% in most of our tests. Clearly, changes at Craigslist have pushed posters to other websites, though this is not to say that johns have necessarily followed in droves.
The point to be made here is simple. I don’t think anyone disputes that sites like craigslist are used, to some degree, to advertise the availability of underage girls for sex. The dispute is about the extent of that activity and whether the banning of Constitutionally protected adult communications is a solution.
The answer is threefold. First, even shutting down all classified sites is not a solution because it simply pushes the ads to other venues. Secondly, even if it did reduce the marketing of underage sex, sacrificing the right to free speech is too high a cost. Finally, a far more effective way to advance the welfare of women and girls would be to legalize prostitution. The very fact that this obvious option is never considered makes it plain that the mission of the rescue industry is less about the welfare of women and more about stamping out prostitution.