This election has brought feminism to the forefront of the national conversation. That's not only because one of the major party candidates is a woman, but also because the candidates seem to be polar opposites when it comes to how we respect and value women: One consistently fights for women's rights, and one laughingly admitted he "can't say" he treats women with respect. But even with more discussions about sexism, this is the one feminist issue we need to talk about: The year is 2016, and sex trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery, still exists in the United States.
The idea of sex trafficking can conjure up ideas of the plot of sensationalized movies — a thing that happens in other countries, far away from home... which makes it seem more like a myth. While it's true that sex trafficking certainly happens in other countries and generates billions of dollars worldwide, it also is an issue right here in the United States. According to the nonprofit DoSomething.org, there are an estimated 17,000 victims in this country alone. However, it's hard to say exactly how many people are victims, in part because it can be difficult to identify them.
Sex trafficking is considered a hidden crime for a variety of reasons. Victims are reluctant to come forward, often because of language barriers and fear of their "johns" or the traffickers, as well as fear of being prosecuted by law enforcement.
The sex trafficking problem plaguing — and not nearly spoken about enough — our country has many complicated factors behind it. However, I believe one of the root causes could be exacerbated by the election of a candidate like Donald Trump, who has spewed and normalized misogynistic rhetoric throughout his time in the public eye.
There is a strong psychological aspect to the crime of sex trafficking. Traffickers often rely both on force and coercion to manipulate victims into the trade. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological, but it must be used to coerce a victim into performing labor, services, or commercial sex acts." Oftentimes, the traffickers target people who have been abused, are psychologically or emotionally vulnerable, and/or are economically desperate.
I believe that the degradation and subjugation of women as a whole contributes to this kind of vulnerability, like, say, for example, when the potential leader of the free world openly rates the value of individual women based on their looks. Even though sex trafficking isn't a hot-button election topic like other feminist issues, such as reproductive rights or maternity leave, I believe it will be deeply affected by the outcome of this election. I believe what starts as a seed of sexism germinates with the way leaders refer to women. And if that way is to consistently reduce women to sex objects, the threat can become deeply woven through the fabric of our society.