Susan notes: Karen Middleton, the author of this guest blog post, blogs for The New Agenda, a US-based, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls by bringing about systemic change in the media, at the workplace, at school and at home. This excellent piece on sex trafficking was originally published on The New Agenda website, where you can read more of Karen’s insightful posts. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and not necessarily mine or those of Amazing Woman Rock.
Some people say the United States should solve its own problems with
women’s issues before our country criticizes another country. I
continue to believe our country is better for women than a lot of other
countries are. After all, women are not stoned for adultery in the
United States. Nor are they legally denied access to education,
careers, and a single lifestyle. However, I admit our country does have
a problem with sex trafficking.
majority of prostituted victims are smuggled into this country through
Mexico and Canada. Their oppressors often called “coyotes” or
“polleros” smuggle them into the country without documentation to avoid
encounters with the authorities. Some have documentation, which later
expires. 20,000 of these victims are children.
According to a 2001 report,
human trafficking for prostitution has been occurring by then for
twenty years but had obtained some national concern in the 1990s.
Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho
has spent decades battling the illegal smuggling of Mexican women and
has written many books over the problem women face. In Cancun, she
founded Centro Integral de Atención a las Mujeres to provide shelter for
abused women. More recently, her concern has shifted to helping women
who have been smuggled out of the country.
In 2004 New York, Mexican citizen Carreto Valencia and five others were indicted for twenty-seven counts of sex trafficking. Her victims had
been forced to service customers twelve hours each day and “were
subjected to beatings, rape and forced abortions” The New York justice
department has stated:
…the women were forced to perform acts of prostitution at
a rate of $25 to $35 per customer. Of that amount, the owners and
managers of the brothels took half, and the other half was taken by the
Carreto family trafficker, who had become the woman’s “husband” or
boyfriend. These men wired the money back to Mexico, much of it being
sent to CARRETO VALENCIA.
Lydia Cacho’s work
started with her focus on organized crime in home country of Mexico.
By investigating organized crime, she became aware of the much graver
crime of sex trafficking. She has made considerable improvements for
the lives of Mexican women. However, once they are smuggled out of the
border, their fates are in the hands of that country’s law enforcement.
“The more I looked, the more I understood it was an international
network. I didn’t know how to handle that.”
In 2007, Union City, New Jersey, Jose Luis Notario was convicted of sex trafficking and received a four-year sentence in prison. He will be released next year.
U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas called Notario’s
building the “epicenter” of the prostitution ring, a “safe house” for
several young Mexican women, all without legal status in the United
States, who were shipped to Union City as sex workers.
Most women are deceived into prostitution through false promises of a
better life. In the town of Tenancingo, pimps wander through public
places such as parks, shopping centers, and public schools to search for
new victims. Once the victims are caught, they are moved to Mexico
City for a trial run before being shipped to the United States. An
Associated Press article stated:
The pimps use a combination of threats, mistreatment,
unkept promises of marriage and jobs, that send their victims on a
slippery slope that usually ends in the filthy alleys near Mexico City’s
La Merced marketplace or at a cheap apartment in metro Atlanta. There,
the women are isolated and sometimes forced to service dozens of male
clients a day.
Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Valerie Wurster
has said that a problem in finding and protecting victims of sex
trafficking comes from the lies and distortions that their pimps tell
them. “What we’re finding is people who are very frightened, who don’t
have resources locally, being managed by someone who is telling them
things that aren’t very true about the environment that they’re living
in.” Another innocent victim told of her ordeal after Rugerio decided to pimp her and lied to her of a better life in the United States.
Rugerio told her he would send her to the U.S. and that
he’d join her a bit later. After walking through the desert, she was
sent to a nondescript apartment complex in suburban Atlanta, where she
was met by two women and a man who, she was told, were related to
One of the women took her shopping for clothes. Even though it was
September and starting to get chilly, the woman selected mostly short,
tight skirts and tops and told her she’d have to start working the next
“I asked them what kind of work I would be doing,” the young victim said. “She took out a bag of condoms and then I knew.”
Her minders kept her in a small, sparsely furnished apartment,
isolated from any other girls and mostly ignored her during the day.
Around 4 p.m., a driver would come pick her up to take her to work. In
the beginning, she had sex with between five and 10 men a night, but as
time went on the number got as high as 40 or 50, mostly Latino men.
“I felt like the worst woman in the world,” she said, her voice
cracking and tears welling up in her eyes during an interview with the
AP three years later. “I felt that if my family found out, they would be
so disappointed because of what I was doing.”
She thought about escaping many times, she said, but she was afraid
because Rugerio had told her that if she left, the police would arrest
her and toss her in jail. She also didn’t know anyone, didn’t have any
money and didn’t know where to go.
Eventually, this innocent victim escaped. Instead of being arrested,
the court protected her, and she testified against her pimp. He is now
serving a five-year sentence. This sentence is too light a punishment
for inflicting such psychological injuries.
Lydia Cacho believes
that the wealthier and more industrialized nations have become
desensitized to sexual violence and abuse: “In the rich countries there
is a big contradiction between liberal arguments for free speech and the
moral outrage at child pornography and sex trafficking.”
Mexico, she believes that the younger generations will become so
disgusted with the corruption that they will create a newer and better
Mexico: “If we don’t get a dictatorship — and the right is willing to go
this way — I think the next generation, who are getting so angry, will
invent a new way of being Mexican.”
But in our country, the United States, which woman is willing to
speak out for the victims and raise the outcry that they deserve? Who
will be their advocate in the United States to publicly speak out
against this atrocity?