Here we go with a new round of media coverage, touting rescue rather than victimization of sex workers. Once again, most will read the convoluted write ups straight from FBI announcements, without any follow up or fact checking. Why? Because, the government would never mismanage information, or slant it in any way other than the truth.
Uh, yeah. Sure.
The real victims of Operation Cross Country are the vulnerable women and men robbed, detained, maybe arrested, maybe incarcerated, but nonetheless treated by police and federal agents as pieces of meat for this funding puzzle game in a national campaign that claims to help them.
In Anchorage, a sex worker named “Alanna” said she was detained by a squad of FBI agents after meeting an undercover agent in a hotel room, denied medical care when she began having asthma and anxiety attacks, and had her phone seized. An agent “went in my bra” to pull out her cellphone. “I’m so confused why my phone was taken when I wasn’t even arrested.” There were pictures of her family and “sentimental stuff” on the phone that cannot be replaced, she said.
Alanna also alleges that the agents told her they had called for medical attention but didn’t actually do it until she also called 911 herself. Overall, the experience was “scary” and left her feeling “violated”; she did not get the impression that law enforcement saw her as a potential victim or even cared about her well-being.
In other news, past reports have been invalidated through thorough research completed by CUSP.
In June of 2014 Operation Cross Country had came to Alaska. Nationally, the FBI reported arresting 1.67 pimps for every victim rescued, but in Anchorage they reported arresting 3 pimps and rescuing 3 victims. However, records requests turned up no charges at the state, municipal, or federal level during the entire month of June, 2014.
In October of 2015 Operation Cross Country happened again in Anchorage. Although Alaska didn’t rate the FBI’s federal press release, it was reported locally that the FBI assisted 9 sex trafficking victims.
It appears the War on Sex Workers is alive and well in Alaska, replacing the War on Drugs maybe?
Why are Alaska policies criminalizing sex workers and not focusing on real issues, with real victims? Why does the local media find it necessary to feature the local Covenant House and ask for donations to a local church rescue group? Where does this money go? Who does it help?
For a more complete view of the problem at hand, read this.
When we as a society confuse sex trafficking with sex worker, we reduce the real crime of sex trafficking. When the facts become blurred and the laws become broad, we all lose. It is true, those that fall through the already anemic safety nets do fall prey to exploitation. So, what can we do to combat this in the real world? That is the million dollar question, and still appears to be unanswered while law enforcement focuses on further marginalizing sex workers.
I didn’t begin in sex work until I was 30, but my first encounter with sex that had a monetary value to it was years before. I was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska. I was in state custody from age 14 and aged out at age 18. When I was almost 16 and me and two girlfriends had run off from the group home we were living in. A man had bought us beer and we went back to his place. Without going into too much detail, something happened to me in the back room of his trailer. Back at the group home a few days later when we had returned, the counselors got wind of this and contacted the Juneau Police Department.
JPD talked me into calling the man while they recorded me blackmailing him for $50 hush money. JPD’s idea, not mine. A few hours later, I am walking into the mall meeting with the man. As I walked out of the mall, the man was arrested and the money was given over to JPD. I was sent on my merry way. No counseling, no follow up, no victim notification when he was released. The man was later released and I bumped into him a few years later. To this date, he is still living in Juneau, Alaska. He is not, nor do I think he has ever been, on the sex offender registry. I was almost 16 at this time. I am 43 now.
When we as a society focus on marginalized groups, those lacking a voice, rather than the issue at hand, we lose sight of the big picture. We lose sight on what can be done, proactively, and instead focus on the reactive scenarios. It is true, those that fall through the already anemic safety nets do fall prey to exploitation. Much like the war on drugs, prevention, education and information is vital in combating sex trafficking. Sex work is not sex trafficking, just as sex trafficking is not sex work. It is rape, kidnapping, extortion and violence. To confuse the two belittles the cruelty of sex trafficking and ignores the consensual aspect of sex work.