The horrific summary appeared in the Guardian:
When they assessed her case, British immigration officials knew that Katya, a vulnerable 18-year-old from Moldova, had been trafficked and forced into prostitution, but ruled that she would face no real danger if she was sent back.
Days after her removal from the UK, her traffickers tracked her down to the Moldovan village where she had grown up. She was gang-raped, strung up by a rope from a tree, and forced to dig her own grave. One of her front teeth was pulled out with a pair of pliers. Shortly afterwards she was re-trafficked, first to Israel and later back to the UK.
There is no question that Katya is a victim of heinous violence and crime. But the reporting of her story in the passive voice, re-victimizes her by keeping the focus on what people did to her, as opposed on who kidnapped, raped, sold, prostituted, and tortured her. This representation in language mirrors the attitude that society and the judicial system has towards women, so often the objects of hideous violence, and men, so often the perpetrators of hideous violence against women. The media–both the producers and the consumers of newspapers, blogs, documentaries, television programs, and tweets–greedily gobbles up stories about terrible things done women, but generally fails to follow up on, name, or draw attention to the people who do these things. When was the last time you read or heard a news story about a trafficker or rapist brought to justice?
Katya’s story–what happened as well as the way that it is narrated–mirrors a serious problem in modern society. That problem is masculinism, the arbitrary set of beliefs and practices that privilege masculine beings over feminine beings. The judicial system, the police, and the media actually do very little to bring attention and punishment to the people who kidnap, sell, and torture women, because they don’t really consider these crimes to be very serious. And why? Because the victims of these crimes are women, and women–especially poor women–don’t count as subjects, as self-moving, autonomous persons endowed with the same degree of reason and dignity as men. They tolerate the enslavement of persons whom they do not believe to be as human as they are. People are eager to read the lurid and grisly details of crimes committed against women, but not eager to take the steps necessary to stop it.
As Katya herself has asked,
“Just look around you – see how many girls there are like me. They are coming all the time. I see them every day – in tube stations, all made up, early in the morning. Maybe for you it is difficult to see them, but I see them,” said Katya (not her real name), in an interview in her solicitor’s office. “I think the police should work better to stop this. Why don’t you shut down saunas and brothels? Then there would be no prostitutes, no pimps.”
Katya is now 26. She was 14 when Traffickers kidnapped her from her village and forced her to work as a prostitute in Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Israel and the UK. She earned no money, only punishment and humiliation for her labor. When the police raided the London brothel where her slavers forced her to work, they arrested Katya. She was afraid to tell them how she came to be there, because the Kosovan Albanian man who sold her told her that he would punish her family is she said anything. Although they knew that people had trafficked her, the police allowed her enslaver to visit her nine times in jail, where he intimidated her further. Although immigration officials knew that a gang kidnapped her in her Moldovan village, they sent her back to it, insisting that she would not be in danger there. Her slavers found her a few days after she arrived. Here is what they did to her:
“They took me to a forest and I was beaten and raped. Then they made a noose out of rope and told me to dig my own grave as I was going to be killed,” Katya’s court statement reads. “They tied the noose around my neck and let me hang before cutting the branch off the tree. I really believed I was going to die. They then drove me to a house where many men were staying. They were all very drunk and took turns to rape me. When I tried to resist, one man physically restrained me and pulled my front tooth out using pliers.”
Her torturers then sold her in Tel Aviv, where she was forced to be a prostitute. She escaped. They found her again and sold her to a brothel in the UK, where her pimps got £150 (approximately $320) an hour for her labor, and she got nothing. In 2007 immigration officials detained her again, and again considered sending her to Moldova. Both times that UK police and immigration officials got hold of her, they treated her as an illegal resident instead of as the victim of sexist criminal activity. It seems there is “friction” between politicos who are more interested in ridding the country of unwanted foreigners than stopping crimes against women, and the few members of the police force who want to shut down trafficking.
Paul Holmes, the now retired former head of the Metropolitan police’s vice unit, CO14, said in a pre-trial statement that there was already much evidence by 2003 that should have led immigration officials to identify her as a trafficking victim.
“Our doubt about the effectiveness of prompt removal was exacerbated by the fact that our intelligence-gathering and operational activities had highlighted the fact that in some cases, victims that had been removed were subjected to retrafficking and were being discovered for a second time in London brothels or elsewhere within weeks of their original removal,” he said.
The Poppy Project, which “provides accommodation and support to women who have been trafficked into prostitution or domestic servitude,” warns that 21% of the women who came to the charity seeking help had already been sent home and retrafficked at least once. It also reports that it has noted an increase is the number of trafficked women and who are in the process of being removed. In its unfathomable wisdom, the UK government has just defunded this project. All the expertise that the Poppy Project staff have built up over the years, and all the care it has provided, will now disappear.
The UK government, in its deficit-decreasing rage, makes its priorities clear. It doesn’t care about trafficked women because they’re just women, after all. Their solution to the trafficking problem? Deport the victims, and let the traffickers continue to operate.
Katya’s traffickers have not been arrested. The brothels in London are still open.
The problem is not unique to the UK or Europe. Thousands of vicious traffickers regularly enslave and abuse girls and women in the United States. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that traffickers prey upon at least 100,000 children in the US every year. They find victims at the most unlikely places, like the Superbowl. The Human Trafficking Prevention Act of 2000 and many acts that have followed it, has focused almost entirely on foreigners and U.S. children continue to be charged for prostitution. Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced the Domestic Sex Trafficking Bill in June 2010, but Congress abandoned this measure when the Tea-Partiers and zealous anti-immigration GOPers came into power in 2011.
Refusing to take action against sex trafficking is only one more way that the GOP carries out its War On Women and perpetuates a culture-wide masculinism that assumes that women are less entitled to rights, dignity, and autonomy than men.