The Wayne State chapter of P.E.A.C.E. Journals held an event, “Sex Trafficking from the Sex Worker’s Perspective,” on March 20 to address why the voices of sex workers are needed in order to begin fixing the issue of sex trafficking.
P.E.A.C.E., which stands for People, Equity, Ambition, Compassion and Essence, is a humanitarian organization that promotes peace, love and happiness.
“Instead of recreating the wheel, we want to help that wheel turn,” Giselle Gaitan, vice president of P.E.A.C.E. and junior marketing and media arts major, said.
Student Assistant and President of P.E.A.C.E. Shay Matmanivong, marketing student and Social Media Director of P.E.A.C.E. Sara Bey and education student and P.E.A.C.E. team leader Alicia Gregg worked together to bring cultural anthropologist, Eric Montgomery, to speak on behalf of sex workers to help turn the wheel of educating people about the depths of human trafficking.
“When we talk about sex work, we have to remember, this is work,” which fell into an explanation that sex work can be done by choice, circumstance or coercion, but the line can get fuzzy between these three entrances into the life of human trafficking," Montgomery said.
A sex worker who was coerced at the beginning can develop a drug addiction and prostitute themselves to attain this drug, now making their work a choice, or a choice sex worker can be involved with the wrong clientele and get stuck into the forced world of human trafficking that’s hard to escape, he said.
Montgomery said there are 5 or 6 million reported sex slaves in the U.S. and only 22,191 reported sex trafficking cases.
“We have more slaves in the world today than we did at the peak of the African Diaspora,” he said.
He said there is a huge problem with corruption in the police force in many places in the U.S. There have been many incidents where, if a cop finds a sex worker, they will take advantage of them and either leave them on the street or incarcerate them.
If the sex worker gets incarcerated, they only serve a portion of time in prison and then they are released into the street again, creating a vicious cycle that allows sex workers to be subject to slavery and harsh living conditions their entire lives with little to no help, Montgomery said.
Deena Policicchio, the outreach and education services director at Alternative for Girls, a nonprofit organization, said incarcerating sex workers is not the answer.
These people need services that will “prevent, intervene and maintain support in the lives of sex workers,” Policicchio said.
She said we need to start treating these workers like people again and not as objects, and we need to listen to their stories in order to understand the vulnerabilities these workers face, so we can target and diminish them.
“This is not going to be a problem that goes away. Unfortunately, this is a problem that will get worse before it gets better… We need to hear from sex workers in order to fix this complex problem,” Montgomery said. “If we don’t hear from sex workers, I don’t see us making any headway anytime soon.”
The WSU P.E.A.C.E. chapter has been involved with many different organizations around Detroit like Focus Hope and Belle Isle Spring Cleaning to assist in bettering our community.
For information on how to donate or volunteer for Alternative for Girls, visit the organization’s website.
Montgomery said if students are looking to get involved in helping the effort of minimizing human trafficking, they can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will guide them to nonprofit organizations to get involved in to help combat this growing problem.