Unfortunately, the Voice story perpetuates the very regressive ideas about “real” trafficking victims that activists have spent a decade fighting. At one point, the reporters get one of the researchers behind the disputed number to admit, “Kids who are kidnapped and sold into slavery—that number would be very small.” Indeed, he says, there are probably only a few hundred such victims.
But a girl hardly needs to be kidnapped to be trafficked. Many are pimped out by men who claim to love them, or by relatives. Some are runaways or addicts. It has taken activists a long time to convince law enforcement that these girls are victims of a crime, not perpetrators. The typical trafficking victim “isn’t a kid from Middle America, frankly,” says Lloyd. “This is a kid who’s been abandoned and failed by every institution. The fact that The Village Voice, of all newspapers, is not getting the connections around race and class with this issue is mind-boggling to me.”