There has been much discussion of sex trafficking, and much doling out of federal dollars to groups pledged to fight it.
What there hasn't been a lot of is a close determination of the actual extent of the phenomenon, as opposed to widely accepted tales of countless girls coerced into prostitution by violent pimps.
This week's cover story, "Lost Boys," looks at a study done in New York that dug a little deeper and exploded some myths about sex trafficking.
Among the findings:
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• Nearly half of the kids -- about 45 percent -- were boys.
• Only 10 percent were involved with a "market facilitator" (e.g., a pimp).
• About 45 percent got into the "business" through friends.
• More than 90 percent were U.S.-born (56 percent were New York City natives).
• On average, they started hooking at age 15.
• Most serviced men -- preferably white and wealthy.
• Most deals were struck on the street.
• Almost 70 percent of the kids said they'd sought assistance at a youth-service agency at least once.
• Nearly all of the youths -- 95 percent -- said they exchanged sex for money because it was the surest way to support themselves.
In other words, the typical kid who is commercially exploited for sex in New York City is not a tween girl, has not been sold into sexual slavery and is not held captive by a pimp.
The story also comes with this editor's note:
EDITOR'S NOTE: Village Voice Media, which owns this publication, 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, certain activists and clergy members have 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 activists held symposiums across America--from Seattle to Miami--denouncing Backpage. Indeed, we were never asked for response.
But then we looked at the "science" behind many of these activists' claims, and the media's willingness, without question, to regurgitate a litany of incredible statistics. In the interest of a more informed discussion, we decided to write.
For background articles go to: www.villagevoice.com/sex-trafficking