Study on Sex Trafficing called “Junk Science”

ATTORNEYS REPRESENTING CRAIGSLIST told Congress on September 15 that the ubiquitous Web classifieds site was closing its adult section.  Under intense scrutiny from the government and crusading advocacy groups, as well as state attorneys general, owner Craig Newmark memorably applied the label “Censored” in his classifieds where adult advertising once appeared. During the same September hearing of a subcommittee of the House Judiciary, members of Congress listened to vivid and chilling accounts regarding underage prostitution.

The congressmen heard testimony from half a dozen nonprofit executives and law enforcement officials. But the most alarming words of the day came from Deborah Richardson, the chief program officer of the Women’s Funding Network. She told legislators that juvenile prostitution is exploding at an astronomical rate. “An independent tracking study released today by the Women’s Funding Network shows that over the past six months, the number of underage girls trafficked online has risen exponentially in three diverse states,” Richardson claimed. “Michigan: a 39.2 percent increase; New York: a 20.7 percent increase; and Minnesota: a staggering 64.7 percent increase.”

In the wake of this bombshell revelation, Richardson’s disturbing figures found their way into some of the biggest newspapers in the country. USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the Detroit Free Press all repeated the dire statistics as gospel. The successful assault on Craigslist was followed by a cross-country tour by Richardson and the Women’s Funding Network. None of the media that published Richardson’s astonishing numbers bothered to examine the study at the heart of her claim. If they had, they would have found what we did after asking independent experts to examine the research: It’s junk science.After all, the numbers are all guesses.  The data are based merely on looking at photos on the Internet. There is no science. Eric Grodsky, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota who teaches about proper research construction, says that the study is fundamentally flawed.

I really hate it when people do this. While their premise is good, ie. that the trafficing of underage females for sex occurs and it is bad, it is not acceptable to falsify data to make your point.

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15 Responses to Study on Sex Trafficing called “Junk Science”

  1. Bryan K says:

    “Exponentially”? I was a little bit miffed at that word. I expected to see increases of several hundred percent.

    But yeah, I’m with you. It seems to me that if we were to concentrate on the issues that cause underage prostitution, like childhood sexual abuse, parental neglect, and the mental illnesses that cause homelessness, the problem would magically disappear.

  2. Profile photo of Breezy Belle Breezy Belle says:

    I’m torn here. I do think the topic should be studied – in a responsible way. It’s a serious issue, and we should be made aware, and we should be talking about how to combat it. But putting together some “study” improperly, for the purpose of getting a reaction, getting attention drawn to the topic, only hurts any good that a real, authentic and verifiable study could do.

    I don’t know that there’s any magical cure for the problem, to be honest. I think there will always be predators out there who will greedily capitalize on the naivity of young teenage girls who are filled with insecurity, low self-esteem, and are easily manipulated… and nearly every single teenage girl can be thrown into that catagory, regardless of their circumstance in life – that’s just how it is for teenage girls. And the adult men who snatch up these girls know how to manipulate and control them… As the mother of a teenage girl (and as a former girl, myself), I know how fragile her self-image is during those years, and I also know how easy it is for some guy to enter her life and totally undo all the hard work I’ve done in trying to lay a good solid foundation she can rely on as she grows up. All the “girl power” I’ve instilled in her can be shattered by one bastard… in the blink of an eye.

    • Bryan K says:

      I’m not so sure I agree that all teenage girls are like that; however, I do think that it is in the nature of a good parent to be over-sensitive to the threat of a child’s self image being shot for no good reason. However, I do think that a well-parented teenage girl who has been taught well about the dangers, the joys, and the responsibilities of sexuality will rise above the influence of a single bastard in her life.

      It is a basic fact that certain qualities make children and adolescents more likely to be preyed upon. A strong willed teenager is less likely to become a victim than one who was raised in a disfunctional home. It really sucks, but there it is. The very nature of the existence of poor self-esteem leads one to be put in higher danger of situations that will further damage that self-esteem. While a teenager with a good self-esteem is not necessariliy safe, the dangers are certainly diminished immensely.

      • Profile photo of Breezy Belle Breezy Belle says:

        In theory, that’s true Bryan. And as a parent, I certainly hope that theory holds true… But in reality, despite what outward appearances may tell an observer, most teenage girls have a fragile sense of self. I would also suggest that many boys do, too – I would suggest that it’s part of being a teen. (Not that I can speak from a perspective I understand fully – I’ve not been a teenage boy) Being a teen is hard – it’s that time when a person struggles to break free of the structure and influence of parents, in order to find oneself. When you are a girl, you are also bombarded with imagery (TV, magazines, etc…) that challenges your self image, makes you wonder if you really are ok “just the way you are”, or if society’s (media’s) portrayal of what a woman should be is the “expected norm”. Another part of being a teen is learning to make your own choices… learning to make good choices. There are a few years when oftentimes learning comes at a cost – learning the hard way… making choices, sometimes, simply because you want to be your own person, to the person your parents want you to be – you know, rebelling. That’s when the bastard steps in and presents himself to be something he is truly not – and once that bond is formed (teenagers form fierce bonds) it’s easy to twist things until a teenage girl finds herself neck deep in a bad situation.

        I’m not just talking about situations like teen prostitution. And I agree that some girls are foundationally (not really a word, but you get the idea) better off than others. But I do think it’s important to at least acknowledge that, despite being raised in the best of environments, and despite being given the best of tools, there are girls who will fall victim to assholes anyway… because they are, simply, teens and do not have the ability to recognize warning signals for what they are – by the time the lights come on, it’s too late, so to speak. It can happen to a strong willed teenager, too – it can just as easily be that strong will that leads them into a mess (hello rebellion) as it can be a weak will.

        The really hard part being – as a parent, I have to decipher when it’s time to intervene, and when it’s time to step back and let my teens fall… in the interest of (hopefully) learning the right lesson. The nice thing is – at 22, my oldest son is really showing me that he heard me, he learned… even when it didn’t seem I was getting thru to him back then. So, watching my almost-not-a-teen daughter push into her 20’s is a lot less stressful than it was the first time around (my lesson learned) – and, I know I’ve given her the tools to really develop her own resilient nature. Bastards beware – my little girl’s growing up! :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    It starts with the home but do not let peer pressure (girl on girl) of the hook. That is one of the greatest sources of low self esteem in all teenagers, the peer group and its tribal mentality. y
    You ca have the most stable and nuturing home and still have a child go emotionally south for a great many reasons. Without a viable alternative to the established cliques in schools, that will be the primary source of of emotional pressure that parents cannot help. With girls, that generally cannot be fought with physicality or sports.
    This is a remarkably complex issue, and not just about the homelife or lack of one. Add in the highly charged influx of hormonal effect, particularily with girls….and you have a recipe for a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
    I wouldn’t blame science either….this falls into the statiticians and bizarre sabermetrics.


  4. Profile photo of Vertigo Vertigo says:

    I am not sure what to add to whats being said. My kids are actually overboard on the “Moral High Ground” because my ex rams it down on how aweful I am and they shouldn’t be like that. Reality is going to hit them hard about real life, but at least they aren’t going to be the worst that I can potentially be!

    I hope..

    I just want to point out the underlying point behind this topic is about sources, and how to use them. People get annoyed by how I demand a higher standard on sources, and this illustrates how, if used improperly, sources can be a sledge hammer that has no target; simply used to destroy things without retrieving the good in them.

    The underlying freedom of speech issue dissapeared completely from this dialogue, There has been no discussion at all of when can the government tell people what and what they cannot publish, and Craigslist is becoming the posterchild of internet censorship over this issue. I have been to the Craigslist Adult section, and frankly much of it crosses the point of pornography for advertisement. Instead this topic is about how horrible it is to use the site for child trafficing… which may or may not actually be a problem but we cannot tell because of of how its been presented by shady sources using hyperbolic verbage.

    To me, this is obviously an opportunity for authorities to track down and prosecute child predators, and to find and help children in need. Every post and response put in Craigslist can be traced, and if they make a system where these people MUST communicate through the media source… they can allow legal transactions while prosecuting illegal ones. Once they close this free speech down, they loose a potentially strong tool for finding TRUE sexual predators….

    • Profile photo of Breezy Belle Breezy Belle says:

      I do agree that Craig’s List, and other sites like it, could be used as a valuable tool in hunting down predators… however, with the cuts to funding across the board, where will law enforcement find the manpower and money to even use the tools available to accomplish the goal?

      Re; your visits to the adult section on Craig’s list…. gosh, I thought hanging out with me and Gramma here at the bar was enough for you, but I can see where we stand………… pfffffft. I think my feelings are hurt.

  5. Profile photo of billybones billybones says:

    Breezy, I appreciate your perspective on girls. As a father of 2 young girls, I am very aware of the images put forth targeting them. Abercrombie and Fitch selling swimsuits with push up bras for little girls.. what pedophile bastard came up with that idea?

    • Profile photo of Breezy Belle Breezy Belle says:

      I highly agree with this, from the article you linked to: “Professor Gail Dines at Wheelock college says, “It gets young girls to think about themselves in sexual ways before that’s developmentally appropriate. It sends out really bad signals to adult men about young girls being appropriate sexual objects, and objects of sexual desire for young men.”

      In addition to the marketing and development department filled with freaking pervs that came up with this idea, I am also incredibly concerned about the kind of parent that would actually make this kind of purchase for their daughter. An adolescent girl should be wearing a cute little one piece suit with ruffles and lady bugs (for example), not a damn padded push up bra and bikini bottom. Grrrrr. This kind of shit really irks me….

    • Bryan K says:

      Maybe I’m ignorant here, but what good would a pushup bra do for a 7-year old?

  6. billybones says:


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