Last month, I wrote a post discussing the ways in which television shows may be further along in understanding the evils of human trafficking than we are in reality. But then I realized that I was neglecting the other side of the debate; the ways in which we can teach T.V. writers a little something about the truth behind trafficking and forced prostitution.
When watching shows like CSI: Miami, we see beautiful, self-confident, and unwavering young women dressed in high-end expensive clothing strutting around the Miami-Dade Police Department without a care in the world. They are often conniving young women, out to take the men who purchase their services for everything they have. But prostitution is rarely so glamorous and usually doesn’t provide such a strong sense of power. It is not filled with luxury cars, diamond earrings, or 4-inch, $350 heels as our favorite crime-fighting shows want us to think. While it may be the ticket into the high life for some, for most, it is a horrifying nightmare.
What about the young women and girls kidnapped off the streets who have no where else to turn? Or the women forced into prostitution by men claiming to love them? Why don’t we make more of an effort to portray their side of the story and the realities in which they live? While some T.V. programs do present this view, more often than not we are left with the image of the high-class, expensive escort or prostitute.
Why do we sensationalize prostitution to this extent?
It is easy to classify human trafficking as an international problem, something that doesn’t happen to Americans. We see it as a serious human rights violation that affects women, children, and men in impoverished countries who fall victim to traffickers promising them a better life elsewhere. While this is true in part, trafficking and forced prostitution happen to women and girls right here in our own backyards.
A documentary released in 2008 called Very Young Girls follows the work of GEMS, an organization that works with teen victims of prostitution in New York City, and shows us the reality of this industry. Thousands of young girls and women are picked up off the streets by men promising to make them happy, care for them, and love them. Rather than realizing this dream, they are forced to sell their bodies on the street day after day. Once they realize what’s going on, it’s too late; their fate is sealed. They can’t escape, are often too afraid to escape, and are physically and emotionally abused by their pimps.
It is important that we understand the truth behind prostitution; that the images portrayed in shows like CSI do not always represent the dire situations in which many of these women and children find themselves. Though in some cases TV programming is successful in portraying the harsh living conditions and abuse that victims face, they often leave us with the wrong impression of the way prostitution affects women and children in the US. Sex trafficking is not just something that happens to women, girls — and in many cases boys and men — in other parts of the world, it is a terrible problem here in the United States as well.
Photo credit: mfajardo