Sex trafficking: The numbers game

Maggie McNeill ties into the wildly fluctuating figures that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and their prohibit-prostitution acolytes use to push the idea that child sex trafficking is a massive crisis in the US. Drawing on the research of three intrepid reporters, she invites us to compare

the widely-touted “100,000-300,000 trafficked children” myth … with the police arrest records of the 37 largest American cities … [I]n the past decade there were only 8263 juveniles arrested for prostitution among them, an average of 827 per year (roughly 22 per city per year).  Even if one assumes that these cities together have only half of the underage prostitutes in the U.S., that still gives us fewer than 1700 per year.  Ask yourself:  Even considering the incompetence of police departments, which is more believable: that police catch roughly 5% of underage prostitutes per year (by my estimate), or that they catch only 0.27% per year? …

Not that any of this bothers Maggie Neilson, Ashton & Demi’s “celebrity charity consultant”; she told the reporter “I don’t frankly care if the number is 200,000, 500,000, or a million, or 100,000—it needs to be addressed.  While I absolutely agree there’s a need for better data, the people who want to spend all day bitching about the methodologies used I’m not very interested in.”  Presumably it would still “need to be addressed” if the number were 827, so why not just say 827?  Because, of course, that wouldn’t justify pouring millions down police department and NGO toilets instead of spending it on programs to help actual underage prostitutes (as opposed to phantom multitudes of “trafficked children”):  as the article explains, “…though Congress has spent hundreds of millions in tax-generated money to fight human trafficking, it has yet to spend a penny to shelter and counsel those boys and girls in America who are, in fact, underage prostitutes.  In March of this year…[two senators] introduced legislation to fund six shelters with $15 million in grants. The shelters would provide beds, counseling, clothing, case work, and legal services.  If enacted, this legislation would be the first of its kind…[it] has yet to clear the Senate or the House.”

Two points.

  1. These people throw around numbers like so much confetti.
  2. At what dreadful point in your life, with what emotions of numbness and accidie and emptiness, with what complete lack of direction and slack limpness of the will, amid what utter failure to believe that you can possibly find a useful niche for yourself or do anything that might even imaginably have an impact on the world for some evanescent good — in what hopeless rut of existential despair do you wake up in the morning and decide to become a “celebrity charity consultant”?