I was interviewed for this New Republic piece by Melissa Gira Grant on the divide in the human trafficking movement between those who see it as a conservative, anti-sex work, criminal justice movement, and those who understand the human rights underpinnings of any effective anti-violence work.
This was not a survivor-led movement at the beginning, said Christy Croft, who has lived experience in the sex trade (“some of that consensual, some of it by circumstance, and some of it was trafficked,” they told me), and who has worked in the anti–sexual violence movement for over a decade. Unlike that movement, Croft told The New Republic, which began with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors who weren’t being served by existing institutions, the anti-trafficking movement was top-down.
“The trafficking movement did not come out of survivors organizing to protect themselves and only recently started incorporating survivor input,” Croft said. Even when it did, they said, the movement excluded survivors who didn’t promote its particular narrative of sex trafficking. And if survivors challenged it, “they push back, they’re like, ‘you just don’t understand trafficking,’ especially around sex trafficking, as if it’s some elite, special harm, and not just sexual violence and violence against sex workers.” These anti-trafficking “experts” were defining away anything that didn’t fit their view of trafficking, even if it meant discounting the lived experience of survivors…
End demand also doesn’t address trafficking outside of the sex trade and is never advocated as an anti-labor-trafficking strategy. “You know the stories: ‘Sex work creates the demand,’” said Christy Croft. “Well, Whole Foods creates the ‘demand’ for labor trafficking, and yet I’m not going to go slap a cabbage out of someone’s hand in the produce department. We need to get more creative about how we’re thinking about ending this.”
The whole piece is thought-provoking, addresses elements of the historical and political context of the anti-trafficking dialogue that are often overlooked, and is worth a read. Too many good quotes from other experts to quote!