Women's Funding Network sex trafficking study is junk science

Schapiro Group data wasn't questioned by mainstream media.

McCullough initially maintained that she stands by the Schapiro Group study, in part because she has been told that "it is the same scientific methodology that science has been using for a long time to measure endangered species."

But when pressed on whether she really believes that counting Internet photos is reliable, she grants the sex-work industry isn't exactly the gold standard of truth in advertising.

"That's absolutely correct," she says. "That's part of how that business operates: It's a bait-and-switch."

David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says reporters need to resist the urge to cite bogus studies.
David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says reporters need to resist the urge to cite bogus studies.

Details

EDITOR'S NOTE: Village Voice Media, which owns this newspaper, owns the classified site Backpage.com. In addition to used cars, jobs, and couches, readers can also find adult ads on Backpage; for this reason, Women's Funding Network and their allies have often called attention to the site, sometimes going so far as to call for its closure.

Certainly we have a stake in this discussion. And we do not object to those who suggest an apparent conflict of interest. We sat quietly and did not respond as the WFN held symposiums across America—from Seattle to Miami—denouncing Backpage. Indeed, we were never asked for response.

But then we looked at the "science" and the media's willingness to regurgitate, without question, these incredible statistics. In the interest of a more informed discussion, we decided to write.

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And given the tricky nature of the photographs, she admits that counting pictures isn't exactly a precise way to measure juvenile prostitutes.

"I can't guarantee that any picture that four of those six people said looked young—that may not be the girl that you'd get if you called up," she concedes.

Asked if she has any reason to believe that the six observers in the study have the identical 38 percent error rate as the 100 random citizens who were the initial test subjects, she allows that it might be worth revisiting that question.

The basic truth is that the study exists in service of the advocacy, and if news outlets present the Schapiro Group's numbers as gospel, it certainly doesn't hurt the advocates' cause.

Admitting that there isn't any authoritative scientific count of juvenile prostitution, as Finkelhor recommends, isn't an option in McCullough's book. She recalls an early presentation she made in Nebraska, when a politician gave her a piece of advice that stuck.

"He said, 'If you all as a movement don't start having numbers, you are going to lose the money,'" McCullough recalls. "'How can you justify millions of dollars when there are only hundreds of victims that you're actually serving?'"

   

EDITOR'S CONCLUSION: Last week, on March 16, the drumbeat continued in the U.S. Senate with a briefing on domestic minor sex trafficking that featured Hollywood actress Mira Sorvino and the startling statistic that 100,000 children are trafficked for sex annually in America.

Trafficking, in labor and sex, became a defining issue in the administration of President George W. Bush. But as an investigation by the Washington Post in 2007 revealed, victims in the sex trade were difficult to come by.

Today, advocates have shifted media attention to allegations of trafficking in children.

But facts to suggest a plague of underage perversion simply do not exist despite claims to the contrary.

In a deficit-obsessed Congress, there is a long line of those seeking tax dollars to raise awareness of trafficking: government agencies, nonprofits, religious groups, the well-intentioned, as well as abolitionists opposed to everything from pornography to adult services.

It is no surprise that some seek to use children as a wedge.

Responsible parties prosecute predators and rescue victims. Not everyone with a microphone is responsible.

The challenge of keeping children out of the hands of exploiters is real but solutions are not clear in an atmosphere of hyped hysteria.

For background articles go to:www.villagevoice.com/sex-trafficking

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28 comments
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Charles Williams
Charles Williams

The abuse industry lies all the time in order to attract funding.

L Michele
L Michele

What in the hell incentive does anyone have - besides conservative religious zealots - to fabricate growing recognition for illegal sex trafficking? And furthermore, why is age and not consent the central issue in sex trafficking? So tired of hearing about who is in front of the camera, hardly any resources (aside from marketing and sales energy) goes towards analyzing the wankers on the other side and all of the societal "go-aheads" we endorse as a whole.

Football fan
Football fan

Super Bowl 2011:

According to the media hype There was supposed to be hundreds of thousands of under age child sex slaves kidnapped and forced to have sex with super bowl fans. At the Dallas Super Bowl 2011.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THEM?????

WHERE ARE THE THOUSANDS OF SUPER BOWL KIDNAPPED FORCED CHILD SEX SLAVES???????

Politicians, women's groups, police and child advocates were predicting that up to 100,000 hookers would be shipped into Dallas for the Super Bowl.

It was all a big lie told by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, government officials, and various anti-prostitution groups: Traffick911, Not for Sale, Change-org, Polaris Project, and the Dallas Women’s Foundation, which are anti-prostitution groups that tell lies in order to get grant money from the government and charities to pay their high salaries, and get huge amounts of money into their organizations. As proved in the links below:

Top FBI agent in Dallas (Robert Casey Jr.) sees no evidence of expected spike in child sex trafficking:

“Among those preparations was an initiative to prevent an expected rise in sex trafficking and child prostitution surrounding the Super Bowl. But Robert Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said he saw no evidence that the increase would happen, nor that it did.“In my opinion, the Super Bowl does not create a spike in those crimes,” he said. “The discussion gets very vague and general. People mixed up child prostitution with the term human trafficking, which are different things, and then there is just plain old prostitution.”

http://www.dallasnews.com/spor...

This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

Brian McCarthy isn't happy. He's a spokesman for the NFL. Every year he's forced to hear why his customers are adulterers and child molesters. Brian McCarthy says the sport/super bowl sex slave story is a urban legend, with no truth at all.

These anti-prostitution groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies.

Below are the few brave souls that told the truth in the media:Sex Trafficking in Sports Events links:

Dallas TV News show about super bowl sex slave myth:

http://www.wfaa.com/sports/foo...

Dallas Newspaper article:

http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

http://sextraffickingtruths.bl...

http://bebopper76.wordpress.co...

Washington post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

News night BBC video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Guardian newspaper:http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2...

Nick Davies - About Truth in the Media:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

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H_e_x
H_e_x

The irony is too much to handle. Conflict of interest anyone?

Freepresshouston
Freepresshouston

Houston Press white washes the sex trade because of it's implicit integral role. Funny.

Mookie von Zipper
Mookie von Zipper

barry bonds is currently on trial for lying to congress... perhaps the women's funding network is next...

bwl123
bwl123

Good Article.from:bangalorewithlove dot com(send gifts and flowers to Bangalore).

Roxychick85holla
Roxychick85holla

Typical typical Houston Press, so when do we draw the line? maybe these #'s arent perfectly correct, however i'm sure there close in numbers. Plus incase you didnt know we do live near a country whose goverment continues to push their ppl out therefore leaving girls and children vulnerable to drug lords and sex traffickers... i free speech too but when do ethics and commensense ever play a role?

Gerry
Gerry

There ought to be a law about fraudulent studies and non-profits, and the like. Come to think of it, RICO ought to work just fine.

DeathBreath
DeathBreath

Yes, the public will believe almost any study presented to them. They don't understand scientific methodology. I've always been quite skeptical of studies backed by the U.S. Government concerning recreational drugs.

Houstonian2008
Houstonian2008

The Houston Press and its sister publications wrote long cover stories about how their lucrative Backpage franchise was besmirched by a questionable study linking it to sex trafficking. Now that we know Village Voice Media is gravely concerned about proper academic research into the sex industry, I am certain they will want to commission other studies. Here are some suggestions:--percentage of Backpage adult ads which are for prostitution--how many of those prostitutes have sexually transmitted diseases and how many of those who do engage in risky sexual activity with Backpage customers--how many work for pimps--how many have been coerced, intimidated, or otherwise exploited by pimps--how many are under 18--how many are in the country illegally--how many of those here illegally were brought here under false pretenses--how many of those in the country illegally are working to pay off smuggling fees--how many of those working to pay off smuggling fees are doing so under threats to themselves and/or their families back home

But let's start with an easy one. How about a study analyzing how many of those utilizing Backpage abide by your stated terms, "I agree to report any illegal services or activities which violate the Terms of Use. I also agree to report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking to the appropriate authorities."

Who knows? Maybe that study would reveal that while the "mainstream media" was "duped" by this flawed study, you as the "alternative media" have been "duped" by all those who clicked on "I agree."

Or maybe you simply don't care, so long as those ads continue to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for your publications.

Amgeraldo
Amgeraldo

If we were smart, rather than religious, we would legalize prostitution. We could then regulate and tax it, ensure that STD's are at a minimum, and lessen the need for pimps and the abuses they engage in. And there would be no problem with advertising it either.What two consenting adults do sexually is nobody's business, for money or not.

Underage prostitution, however, is another story entirely.

Dude!!!
Dude!!!

It has nothing to do with religion. Sweden is the most secular country and prostitution isn't legal there. Drugs aren't legal there either, and the government has a monopoly on the production and distribution of alcohol. Legalized prostitution is actually being seen as a problem in Amsterdam because it attracts unsavory elements.

Governments have interests in prostitution other than a dubious religious argument or a need to legislate morality. Seedy enterprises such as drugs, prostitution, and strip clubs attract very shady elements. Strip clubs are legal in the US and organized crime runs them, so you don't take the seedy element out. They're also centers for illegal drug use and trafficking.

Using your argument, we should legalize dog and cockfighting because we can tax it and consenting adults engage in animal fighting. I worked at an animal shelter and they had to call in the ATF and DEA because of what they were associated with.

Dude!!!
Dude!!!

As a person who studies methodology, this type of stuff is prevalent and not really new in this country, and I'm even surprised y'all are even discussing this being that it's more frequent than researchers would like to admit. Both drug legalization lobbies and the US regularly make up numbers on amount of drugs trafficked to the US based on captures, which aren't a good measure of the metric tonnage of drugs illegally trafficked to the US. The Global Terrorism Database, a website I regularly use for research, documents many cases of "terror attacks" that may just be crimes against property and not a terrorist targeting property, because no one claims credit or people randomly assign credit. This is more common in Global South countries with limited information where newspapers conjecture over who started what.

Not exactly news, in my opinion.

peval
peval

A few sentences that come to my mind after reading this article:- lie, lie, lie, at some point it will stick- the best statistics are the ones that prove what I want to prove- if YOU have financial problems or some other problems form an NGO or foundation with a great sounding name and all YOUR problems will be solved.

I actually want to congratulate HP for making this kind of articles. Its the kind of journalistic work I cannot find in major newspapers except maybe for NY Times and Washing Post. The rest only pull cables and news-wires that I can read in the net about 12 hours before I get the newspaper from my doorstep.

dgwoxby
dgwoxby

There's lies, damn lies, and statistics.

lux.interior
lux.interior

What a joke. If I could only muster up the greed to falsify a study about some morally reprehensible act then maybe I wouldn't be two months behind on my mortgage. Advocacy for profit is just as disgusting as child sex trafficking, and probably more rampant as well.

Bevoer
Bevoer

The shame in this is the "cry wolf" effect. Legitimate efforts to end child prostitution (which IS a valiant cause) will suffer the way envoronmental efforts suffered when emails were published indicating greenhouse gas research had been fabricated. In the end, dollars will be pulled back. Dollars that could have actually prevented some sex trafficing. So, congrats to McCullough and now being responsible for an increase in sex trafficing.

HOHUM
HOHUM

This just in...water is wet.

Lgnu
Lgnu

This is shameful and laughable. Calling it junk science is guilding the lily. This is simply out and out fraud. The Schapiro group is simply telling lies to get funding from various organizations and they should be prosecuted.

Lgnu
Lgnu

If you just want to make up things to support your point of view and call it a study, that's what this is. The moon is made of green cheese comes to mind.

Lgnu
Lgnu

Not only do people on prostitution sites publish old pictures of themselves, women on legitimate dating sites and I presume men also post old pictures of themselves. I wouldn't attribute an ounce of credibility to such a study.

 
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