Today’s arrest of Lawrence Taylor for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old runaway sold to him in Montebello, New York by a pimp/trafficker is yet another example of the most powerful, respected and privileged among us demonstrating the normalization of the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Mr. Taylor is part of what we in the anti-trafficking movement call the demand that fuels sex trafficking. Without the demand for commercial sexual exploitation there would be no 16-year-olds — or 26-year-olds for that matter — being offered for sale to Johns by traffickers.
Earlier today Police Chief Brower repeatedly stated at the press conference that Mr. Taylor was ‘… very concerned about being accused of injuring the victim.’ He was referring only to the visible injury on her face, suggesting that the commercial sexual exploitation of this 16-year-old was inconsequential. This statement belies a profound lack of understanding regarding the nature of prostitution. It is now well documented that prostitution, the world’s oldest oppression, is inherently traumatic both on a physical and psychological level to the exploited.
It was also disturbing to hear high level members of the police force continually refer to the trafficking victim as a “prostitute.” Prostitution is the only crime where a person is called that which is done to them. Many victims of sex trafficking do not come forward because of the stigmatization associated with having been prostituted. Understanding that prostitution is a verb, not a noun, could go a long way in removing this stigma.
Shifting the focus of legal enforcement to the Johns and traffickers is how we end the demand for the commercial sexual exploitation of others. Sweden, Norway and now Iceland have passed legislation that does just that, and has created an environment that is unfavorable to human trafficking.
The New York State Anti-trafficking law, the strongest anti-trafficking law in the nation, increased penalties against the demand for commercial sex. This law is being under-enforced in New York state. We can begin to create the social, political and legal conditions that are inhospitable to human trafficking by vigorously enforcing New York’s law and prosecute the Johns and traffickers.
SOURCE The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)