Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Visual Advocacy: Research

The Three Problems that I found in Kansas City

1. American Sex Trafficking; Misidentification of Victims.
2. Gang Violence and Affiliation Pressures in Schools.
3. Lack of Sexual Education and Access to that Information in Schools.

The one that I found most shocking to learn was the scale of DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking) in the KCMO/Independence area. I'm not talking just about children smuggled from overseas, but children of American Citizens being snatched walking to home from school, or young girls being seduced by a good looking older man, or being trafficked by a family member!!!

At least 100,000 American Children are being exploited sexually, and it brings in at least 9.5 billion dollars a year.

The main thing that repulsed me was the fact that many of these victims are misidentified with being child prostitutes and are arrested and punished, even though they are legally qualified to be victims and inform the police, they are imprisoned.
They get punished while their buyers and "pimps" do not get punished.

How can I tell these children that all they have to do is tell law enforcement when the law is against them and on their captor's side?
This isn't always the case, sometimes the "pimp" will get 6 months in prison. Only 6 months, some cases 8 years.
Also not all of the victims have been arrested or charged, but they are rarely assisted.

Many children that are trafficked are mistaken to be from an abusive home, which sometimes is the case but parents have been investigated when they don't know what's going on.

Young girls are sometimes seduced over a period of time then once the older man gains her trust, he exploits her.

There has been some movements against this terror in our community, but Kansas City Missouri is still considered a hot spot in the nation for DMST. Shared Hope is an organization with 10 stations in the U.S. (and some overseas) and one of their stations is in Independence MO. However their facility isn't enough to restore the victims.

Over 1 in 100 "erotic" posts posted in Craigslist are affiliated with DMST victims.

A lot of the problem is supported by lack of information to officers and the public.

People are usually afraid of admitting they are a victim because of judgement and being in a "purity myth" society.
The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti reveals that young girls are especially oppressed and pressured into thinking that their most valuable feature is their "hymen" or "virginity", a term that cannot be proved scientifically. "innocent" is now the new "sexy" according to conservative and christian teachings but really what they mean by "innocent" they describe it as little girls. Young girls are being taught that a submissive attitude and being eager to please every man's need is ideally what every man wants.
Essentially pop culture idolizes young girls as a sexual commodity, and this can be seen in magazines and TV on a regular basis. It seems like a far stretch but i believe that this "small" issue contributes to the lack of self esteem, the stress and vunerability of young girls. I believe that awareness of the misogyny in "christian" teachings including proper sexual education to a younger age will also help prevent young girls from falling into the hands of predators.

Also awareness among law enforcement is needed.
Law enforcement many times do not know how to identify DMST victims resulting in unjust prosecution against the victims.

They have a station over in Independence, MO