Sex Trafficking: Stephanie Dodson Educates Winsor Girls

-by Maddy Batt- While Winsor students stress over tests and essays, other girls in Boston have greater concerns: their freedom, their safety, and their right to their bodies have been stolen away from them. This was the message of Stephanie Dodson’s November 13 presentation on sex trafficking, hosted by Girls of the World. Sex trafficking can seem like a very distant issue to the sheltered Winsor girl; in fact, this human rights abuse is far more widespread than many are aware.

As those who attended Dodson’s presentation will now know, sex trafficking is distinguished from prostitution in that the victim is coerced. Trafficked individuals are forced to take part in the sex trade, while prostitutes have–at least ostensibly–a choice. Dodson is hesitant to draw the line too firmly, however; as she noted, the average age at which women become involved in prostitution in the United States is 13. How much choice, she asks, do these girls truly have? Moreover, the economic situation of many women leads them to prostitution as their only option for survival. This grey area reflects how complicated the issue really is–and how difficult the sex industry is to escape.

Sex trafficking is a problem all over the world–not just in far-flung, third-world countries, as many think, but even in Boston. Though the underground nature of the crime makes it difficult to gauge exact statistics, the city is in no way immune to the sex trade. Girls who come from families that are “economically vulnerable” are especially at risk, according to Dodson. In many countries, desperate families will sell their children to people who promise that they have jobs for them elsewhere. In the United States, this vulnerability takes a different form: most of the girls who are sexually exploited have run away from an unsafe foster care situation, often involving sexual abuse. These girls have no money, nor any family to protect them. They are utterly defenseless.

The United States’ involvement in sexual trafficking does not stop at its borders. Many places where sexual trafficking is particularly widespread also engage in sexual tourism; foreigners will visit a country with the express purpose of taking advantage of their sex industry. Dodson reported, “There are these little towns where there would be no other reason to be there, and you find Western men.” Dodson, however, is focusing her research on trafficking within Boston, where she can have more of an impact. She argues that before you address a problem in other countries, you should “start in your backyard.”

How, then, can Winsor girls make a difference in their backyard? The most important thing we can do is spread awareness. Dodson says that “people are very surprised to find out that there is trafficking in Boston.” Helping people realize that sex trafficking is far more widespread and occurs far closer to home than they thought is the first step we must take to fight sex trafficking. By educating others, we can make a difference.

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