Monday, June 17, 2013

Sex Trafficking is Modern-Day Slavery (in the news or not)

People who deprive young girls of their freedom for years and years are obviously crazy sickos who need to be put away for life. Nobody’s going to argue about that. Except that for most of history, treating women like they’re ownable was the normal thing to do. In many places in the world, it’s still the normal thing to do. And although they don’t always get the coverage that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are receiving, women are being held against their will all the time in the U.S.

About a month before the voluble Charles Ramsey (who turns out to have been a repeat domestic abuser) was helping to kick down the door to free Berry and her daughter, Julio Cesar Revolorio Ramos of Adelphi, Md., was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for sex trafficking a 15-year-old girl. He was part of a multi-state kidnapping and prostitution ring that has victimized hundreds of women and girls since at least 2008.

And then in New York on April 30, just a week before the Ohio case, seven women were freed when another prostitution ring was broken up and 13 people arrested. Most of the women had been trafficked through Mexico, typically by men whom they believed at the time to be their boyfriends. The U.S. attorneys prosecuting the case allege that the women were beaten, threatened with physical harm to them and their family, sexually assaulted, and verbally abused if they declined to have sex with strangers for money. Or sometimes even if they didn’t. This doesn’t sound all that different from what we know about what happened in Ohio, or in Austria (twice!), or in Utah, or in California or in any of the high profile cases where girls have been kidnapped and held captive for long periods. But unless you’ve been looking, you may not have heard about the rescued prostitutes, even though their story is arguably a bigger one.

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