Images from the movie The Whistleblower keep coming to mind the more that is revealed about this Secret Service scandal. The fight to prove that foreign workers sent to other countries for official government business are themselves engaging in buying and selling of women for sex, the laughter of the men trafficking girls to make a profit from these government workers, and the affected government’s concern of how this “scandal” will make them look.
What is perhaps the most atrocious in the coverage of this story is the semantics. When the media and officials refer to this as a “scandal,” they are referring to the men who were caught having brought over 20 women to their hotel and now how it will look on the administration as whole, especially during an election year. What about the scandal that more likely than not, these women are victims of human trafficking and are giving that money back to their pimps at the end of the night? What about the scandal that government workers and contractors are not only traveling to other countries to buy girls for sex, they are bragging about how young some of these girls are – some quoted to be as young as 12 or 15 [USA Today]. Or the overall scandal that prostitution is even legal in Colombia which makes it that much easier for traffickers to bring in victims that increasingly get younger and younger because no one is checking.
In an article published on msnbc.com today, Romney was quoted as saying “The right thing to do is to remove the people who have violated the public trust and have put their play time and their personal interests head of the interest of the nation.” No comment on whether Romney has done anything that merits election or not, but let us unpack all the things wrong with this statement. By referring to these men’s actions as “play time” and “personal interests,” we keep the idea that “boys will be boys,” that there is nothing wrong in what these men engaged in. In reality, what is “play time” for the boys is sexual exploitation for the girls and women they are abusing, fueling the demand for prostitution, and continuing to make more money for pimps and traffickers that abuse these girls and women physically and emotionally non-stop.
The “right thing to do” of removing these men is merely a start. The next step would be look into the scandal for what it really is – a likely scenario of human trafficking – and investigate just how widespread it is not only in the Secret Service, but across all agencies, across all nations. And then tell the public that this is unacceptable instead of burying it for fear of “scandal.”
A friend of mine told me of a friend of hers recently who purported that these men are risking their lives for the president therefore they should be afforded the ability to have fun and let go and pay for sex if they want. Reality check: they chose this profession. It is not like the 18-year old who is going off to war and they are not even allowed a drink at a bar. This is sexual exploitation and there is no justification for it no matter how you try to use other semantics to avoid the phrase “human trafficking.”
laura ng, executive director, external relations