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Seduction, Slavery and Sex

Nicholas Kristof

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Against all odds, this years publishing sensation is a trio of thrillers by a dead Swede relating
tangentially to human trafficking and sexual abuse.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series tops the best-seller lists. More than 150 years ago,
Uncle Toms Cabin helped lay the groundwork for the end of slavery. Lets hope that these
novels help build pressure on trafficking as a modern echo of slavery.
Human trafficking tends to get ignored because it is an indelicate, sordid topic, with troubled victims who dont
make great poster children for family values. Indeed, many of the victims are rebellious teenage girls often
runaways who have been in trouble with their parents and the law, and at times they think they love their
Because trafficking gets ignored, it rarely is a top priority for law enforcement officials so it seems to be
growing. Various reports and studies, none of them particularly reliable, suggest that between 100,000 and
600,000 children may be involved in prostitution in the United States, with the numbers increasing.
Nicholas D. Kristof Credit Fred R.
Conrad/The New York Times
Just last month, police freed a 12-year-old girl who
they said had been imprisoned in a Knights Inn hotel
in Laurel, Md. The police charged a 42-year-old
man, Derwin Smith, with human trafficking and false
imprisonment in connection with the case.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department said
that Mr. Smith met the girl in a seedy area, had sex
with her and then transported her back and forth
from Washington, D.C., to Atlantic City, N.J., while
prostituting her.
The juvenile advised that all of the money made
was collected and kept by the suspect, the police
department said in a statement. At one point, the
victim conveyed to the suspect that she wanted to
return home, but he held her against her will.
Just two days later, the same police force freed
three other young women from a Garden Inn about
a block away. They were 16, 19 and 23, and police
officials accused a 23-year-old man, Gabriel Dreke-Hernandez, of pimping them.
Police said that Mr. Dreke-Hernandez had kidnapped the 19-year-old from a party and had taken her to a hotel
room. Once at the hotel, the police statement said, Mr. Dreke-Hernandez allegedly grabbed her around the
throat and began to choke her. Hernandez then pushed her head against the wall several times before placing a
knife to her throat and demanding that she follow his commands.

The female further advised that all of the money made was collected and kept by the suspect. At one point, she
indicated that she would not prostitute any longer and the suspect subsequently pulled her into the bathroom and
threatened her again with a knife.
Police officials did not release details about the 16-year-old and 23-year-old, though they said customers for the
teenager had been sought on the Internet.
Theres a misperception in America that sex trafficking is mostly about foreigners smuggled into the U.S. That
exists. But Ive concluded that the biggest problem and worst abuses involve not foreign women but home-grown
runaway kids.
In a typical case, a rebellious 13-year-old girl runs away from a home where her mothers boyfriend is hitting on
her. She is angry and doesnt trust the police. She goes to the bus station in hopes of getting out of town and
the only person on the lookout for girls like her is a pimp, who buys her a meal, offers her a place to stay and tells
her he loves her.
The next thing she knows, shes having sex with four men a night and all the money is going to her boyfriend. If
she voices reservations, he puts a gun in her mouth and threatens to blow her head off.
Her customers, often recruited on the Internet, may have no inkling that her actions are not completely voluntary.
Some mix of fear, love, hopelessness and shattered self-esteem keep her from trying to run away.
No strategy has worked particularly well against human trafficking, and commercial sex may well exist 1,000
years from now. But a starting point is for law enforcement to go after pimps rather than the girls. Thats the only
way to break the business model of forced prostitution.
Sweden offers us not only the summers top beach paperbacks, but also a useful strategy for dealing with
trafficking. The Swedish model, adopted in 1999, is to prosecute the men who purchase sex, while treating the
women who sell it as victims who merit social services.
Prosecution of johns has reduced demand for prostitution in Sweden, which in turn reduces market prices. That
reduces the incentives for trafficking into Sweden, and the number of prostitutes seems to have declined there. A
growing number of countries are concluding that the Swedish model works better than any other, and it would be
wise for American states to experiment with it as well. Its not a panacea, but cracking down on demand seems a
useful way to chip away at 21st-century slavery.

Nicholas Kristof
Human rights, womens rights, health, global affairs.