European & International News

177 Sex Trafficking Survivors Support Mary Honeyball’s Report

[25 February 2014] Sex Trafficking Survivors United (STSU) is a survivor-led and survivor-founded international organization. Our 177 members include sex trafficked women and men who have escaped their traffickers, often with no assistance, and who have banded together to raise awareness and assist those hurt by commercial sexual exploitation, which is often called prostitution. We support Mary Honeyball’s Report on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact. We know that men’s demand to buy sex hurts people in prostitution. Indigenous peoples and people of color are disproportionately exploited in prostitution as a result of racism and colonialism.

As survivors we know that for the vast majority, commercial sexual exploitation includes force, fraud and coercion like sex trafficking. It is simply not credible to suggest prostitution can exist independently of sex trafficking, racism and brutal abuse. All the sex trafficked are trafficked in prostitution. Statistics reveal that legalizing brothels and pimping in Germany and Amsterdam has only strengthened organized crime’s hold on the exploited and increased its power in vulnerable communities.

We know emphasizing distinctions between sex trafficking and prostitution allows the perpetuation of a system known to be extremely violent and damaging while continuing to stigmatize and blame most of its victims. This empowers the punters, pimps and madams who exploit our most vulnerable.

As the Native Women’s Association of Canada says: “It is not helpful to divide women in prostitution into those who “choose” and those who are “forced” into prostitution. In most cases, Aboriginal women are recruited for prostitution as girls and/or feel they have no other option due to poverty and abuse. It is the sex industry that encourages women to view prostitution as their chosen identity.”

We urge European Parliament to take a stand against the exploitation of the young, poor, and vulnerable by the richer, older and more powerful. As all survivors know, the vast majority of people end up in prostitution because they have no other choices, and/or are the victims of coercion, fraud, abuse and violence. The untruth that “prostitution is a choice” only serves to stigmatize and further trap most of the sexually exploited. This empowers their traffickers and abusers, while erasing the truth that the exploited are the victims of multiple crimes

STSU’s members include executive directors of survivor-led organizations providing direct services to minor and adult victims, medical doctors and other health professionals, social workers and family therapists, crime victim advocates and college professors. Not only have we experienced and escaped the complex world of sex trafficking and healed, many of us have earned college degrees, founded small businesses, established nonprofit victim services organizations, and earned other professional credentials.

We thank Mary Honeyball for her efforts and wholeheartedly support her report. As you consider submissions, please exercise due diligence. It is imperative that those who sexually exploit others not be allowed to speak for the exploited. Unfortunately this is a common phenomenon.

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