Moral Panic Over Sex Work

Police often use “sex trafficking” and prostitution interchangeably. That’s what happed in the Robert Kraft case, says reporter Elizabeth Nolan Brown.

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Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, was caught in a “sex trafficking” sting.

“They [law enforcement] had all of these big announcements at first saying that … these women were being forced there and they weren’t allowed to leave” Brown explains to John Stossel.

But now prosecutors in the Kraft case concede that there was no trafficking.

That’s usually the case when it comes to “sex trafficking” busts says Brown: “I’d say 99% of the headlines are not true.”

Brown covered a similar case in Seattle where the cops claimed to have busted a sex trafficking ring. In a press conference King County Sheriff John Urquhart said, “These women are true victims.”

But the court documents “actually paint a very, very different story” Brown points out. “No one has been charged with human trafficking in that case.”

Yet politicians and the media often exaggerate the frequency of trafficking. Congresswoman Ann Wagner claims, “Right now almost 300,000 American children are at risk”.

That 300,000 number is repeated constantly in the media. The number is based on a study that has been disavowed by the lead author Richard Estes. Brown says, “many people debunked the study and say ‘this is just a total bull crap number’.”

Brown adds, “when we have these exaggerated numbers, it forces people to go into this crazy emergency moral panic mode that ends up not helping the actual problem that we have.”

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