Last year, 34 sex workers were murdered in the United States—that we know of. There's little accurate data for this multi-billion-dollar industry that exists in the shadows. It's a black-market business where workers are far more likely to face violence than in conventional jobs, but they're also at risk if they call a cop. Yet sex workers continue to ply their trade for money. Hardline critics hold that all prostitution is exploitation, even if the sex worker gives her consent; advocates call for decriminalization to protect sex workers. And stumbling along, without much vision on the issue, lawmakers lurch between different approaches. (Harm reduction is the most common alternative to increased enforcement, though a lot of people in power—including the attorney general—still favor the latter).
The opioid crisis has worsened everything: When drug addicts are criminalized, it often pushes them into sex work, since a drug conviction reduces their access to legitimate jobs. The intersection of drugs and sex work generates all sorts of new vectors for the exploitation of both women and girls. And our foster care system is also the source of the majority of girls who are forced into sex trafficking—our governmental child-care system serving sometimes as a cradle of trauma.
To shine light into this dark world, journalist Noor Tagouri created a three-part documentary for Newsy, Sold in America. It's a comprehensive examination of prostitution and sex trafficking, how they're different, and how the law treats them the same—with disastrous results. In each segment, Tagouri takes a personal approach. Her subjects speak candidly, some interviewees cry, other share things they've never said before, and throughout, Tagouri offers a perceptive and intimate view of the U.S. sex trade and its victims. Pacific Standard spoke with Tagouri about her documentary, the intersections of morality and culture, and how to encourage survivors to speak out.
[For more on this story by ZARON BURNETT III, go to https://psmag.com/social-justi...nd-human-trafficking]