A recent report (PDF) by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation claimed that the state is a major hub for sex trafficking. The report generated outraged media coverage and, of course, a full slate of new laws. (Not of all which are necessarily bad.)
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Coffee County is one of four major locations across the state for human sex trafficking.
However, not a single report from the Tullahoma Police Department completed during the past two years indicates any human sex trafficking incidents.
The TBI report released in June suggests that Coffee, Davidson, Shelby and Knox counties each have more than 100 cases of human sex trafficking during the past two years. The numbers were gathered from an anonymous e-mailed survey the bureau distributed to law enforcement agencies, juvenile and family courts and group homes that potentially deal with human sex trafficking and other sexual abuse crimes.
Although the Tullahoma Police Department and Coffee County Sheriff’s Department were listed as survey participants, officials aren’t sure who – if anyone – received the e-mailed survey.
“We’re unaware that anyone from this office participated in the survey,” said Police Chief Paul Blackwell. “We haven’t found any record that indicates Tullahoma has even one case of human sex trafficking.” . . .
Apparently, the report made no effort to actually define “sex trafficking” for survey participants, nor did it ask for any documentation or supporting evidence of any kind for the figures participants provided. Instead, survey participants were simply asked to estimate how many “sex trafficking” incidents they may have encountered in the past year, based on their own judgment of what might qualify under the term. (I’d imagine there would be problems with double counting, too.)
“People can say anything with no reason to be entirely accurate.” The report states human sex trafficking is often confused with prostitution.
“When I think of trafficking, I think of forced prostitution,” said Graves . . .
“Some participants who have limited or no training in identifying human sex trafficking would have difficulty recognizing a minor victim. …The conceptualization of human sex trafficking varies among individuals,” according to page 11 of the report.
Near the end of the report, a quote from Coffee County was included at the bottom of page 60.
“My experience with human sex trafficking was a father who was abusing his daughter and then letting his friends participate for a fee.” There was no source other than “Coffee County” listed for the quote.
Obviously, there’s no reasonable objection to laws against trafficking children for prostitution (or trafficking children for any other reason), or against using violence or the threat of violence to force adult women into the sex trade. The problem is how these sorts of reports, and the breathless coverage of them, conflate those clearly immoral practices with consensual sex-for-money between adults. Politicians then trumpet these reports and the unskeptical media coverage to demand laws cracking down on the consensual stuff. Which of course then pushes the sex trade further underground, exacerbating the actual sex trafficking problem.
(Hat tip: Maggie McNeil)