When New York financier Jeffrey Epstein was arrested earlier this week on charges of sex trafficking, the chattering class erupted with speculation about the potential ramifications on the political arena. Unfortunately, the story has not garnered attention for the reasons one might think.
Epstein was charged with one count of sex trafficking and another for sex trafficking with minor females. He pleaded not guilty to both charges, which means there is a chance that his case could go to a trial and potentially expose others who may have been involved with his alleged activities.
One might assume that a situation such as this would draw attention to the problem of the international human trafficking trade, but it appears the establishment media has other plans for this story.
Choosing Politics over Awareness
When the news broke about Epstein’s arrest, the press buzzed and social media flew into a tizzy as politicians and pundits ran to their respective teams to prepare for battle. Regrettably, it appears the plight of Epstein’s alleged victims will go largely unnoticed due to the country’s political climate in which both sides are more focused on using stories such as these to attack their opposition instead of on what’s important.
Conservative pundits were quick to point out that the accused sex trafficker was friends with former President Bill Clinton, who flew on Epstein’s jet on several occasions. On the other side, left-leaning journalists noted that the businessman was also friendly with President Donald Trump, who made complimentary remarks about Epstein in the past.
While some used this story to draw attention to the atrocity of the international sex and human trafficking trade, most were focused primarily on scoring political points. It seems the American press is willing to pass up an opportunity to raise awareness of this problem if it means they can smear their political opposition. Meanwhile, people continue to become victims of traffickers largely because others remain unaware of the prevalence of the industry.
Lack of Awareness
Believe it or not, sex trafficking remains one of the most heinous crimes of which ordinary people remain unaware. Law enforcement has cited this widespread ignorance as one of the main reasons the practice persists in the western world. Indeed, many seem to believe that children are victimized in faraway countries, but the truth is that trafficking could be happening in your backyard without your knowledge.
Elizabeth Scaife, an associate with Shared Hope International, an anti-sex trafficking organization, told The Washington Examiner that most people do not recognize the many signs of sex trafficking among those they may interact with regularly. “That lack of awareness and understanding of the issue is part of the reason that it thrives,” she explained.
Jeanne Allert, executive director of The Samaritan Women, a Maryland anti-trafficking group, indicated that people remain ignorant because they assume that the practice does not happen in their cities. “People don’t believe it happens in the States, let alone in Maryland,” she said.
Sex Trafficking by the Numbers
Human trafficking is one of the most brutal and damaging industries around the globe. A quick look at the numbers demonstrates that ending this industry is far more critical than transforming Epstein’s arrest into a political weapon. According to Ark of Hope for Children, an organization dedicated to assisting victims of sex slavery, the practice is currently affecting a disturbing number of kids all over the world.
The group found that 600,000 to 800,00 people are sold across international borders into sexual slavery and forced labor each year. When you include domestic victims, the number increases to two to four million. Half of these victims are children. As of 2012, there were 20.9 million victims of trafficking worldwide, and 1.5 million reside in the United States. A significant percentage of American children who become victims of sex slavery are funneled through the foster care system.
While these statistics are certainly alarming, the most tragic aspect of sexual slavery is that only 1 to 2% of victims are rescued. These individuals are typically damaged for life, experiencing mental disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Stockholm syndrome, and anxiety. Others deal with sexually transmitted diseases.
In the lead-up to the 2020 elections, it is expected that Americans on both sides of the political divide would be in attack mode. But it is the media’s job to ensure that the American public is informed on issues that impact society more than pushing a political agenda. While Republicans and Democrats manipulate the news about Epstein to create their desired narrative, his alleged victims, along with millions of other children, are suffering. Perhaps if the media would use this story to raise awareness about this atrocious institution, the US could finally solve the problem.