It amazes and dismays me that members of our community, mostly men, have expressed a nonchalant “boys will be boys” attitude toward the solicitation and pandering indictments facing Hinesville City Manager Ken Howard. I’ve heard comments like, “It’s just a misdemeanor,” and “It’s the oldest trick in the book.” The “it” meaning paying for sex. In my view, prostitution debases the participants, particularly women, and risks injury to those who supply sex for hire.
Whether or not Howard and the six other prominent individuals charged in the Fort Valley State University sex scandal are guilty is up to the courts to decide. What angers me is that too many folks shrug off prostitution, as if it is a victimless crime. It’s not.
The Centers for Disease Control warn that people who exchange sex for money or nonmonetary items – to include food, drugs, medicine or shelter – are at greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Experts who have researched prostitution maintain many who enter this illicit trade were sexually abused as children or were coerced into this shady existence. These individuals may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and are at higher risk of assault from their clients and handlers. An online article posted to catholiceducation.org states, “Women in prostitution have the highest rates of rape and homicide of any group of women ever studied. They are regularly physically assaulted and verbally abused, whether they prostitute on the street or in massage parlors, brothels or hotels. Sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women in legal prostitution. In one Dutch study, 60 per cent of women in legal prostitution were physically assaulted, 70 per cent were threatened with physical assault, 40 per cent experienced sexual violence and 40 per cent had been coerced into legal prostitution.”
And what about the tragic and worldwide plague of sex trafficking? Doesn’t it go hand-in-hand with prostitution?
According to cdc.org, “Sex trafficking is defined by the amended Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000External as ‘the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.’ It involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to make an adult engage in commercial sex acts, but any commercial sexual activity with a minor, even without force, fraud, or coercion, is considered trafficking. This type of violence exploits women, men, and children across the United States and around the world. Sex trafficking is preventable. Understanding the shared risk and protective factors for violence can help us prevent trafficking from happening in the first place.”
Now, I’m not accusing anyone of sex trafficking. What I am saying is that prostitution, whether legal or illegal, is harmful. No matter that it’s considered “the world’s oldest profession;” it causes human beings pain and suffering, and like drug abuse and domestic violence, should be prevented. And at the very least, should not be shrugged off as no big deal.
Etheridge is the editor of the Coastal Courier. She and her husband have two grown children, the most beautiful granddaughter in the world, a teddy bear of a rescue dog, a grumpy old cat that guards the house, and a young agile cat that pesters the grumpy one.