Editor’s note: This letter is by Carol Gross, of Jericho.
This letter is a message for all Vermonters, no matter your party affiliation, faith, economic level, race or gender. The proposed state legislation and actions by some local governments regarding decriminalization or legalization of prostitution will affect us all in some negative way.
Some people want us to believe that there is nothing wrong with this idea and that legalizing prostitution will empower women because it is an act of consent. However, the real data says something different. According to an abstract by Melissa Farley, PhD, and her colleagues, 89% of those involved in sex trade did not choose this lifestyle and were forced into it, starting with sex trafficking. (See: Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Journal of Trauma Practice: Vol 2, No 3-4)
Some of you may think there is little or no sex trafficking in our state, which is also a myth. Check out the website neersagainstsexualviolence.org (a regional organization exposing sex trafficking in New England) to hear the real stories and understand this is a region-wide problem.
Before the Vermont Legislature is House Bill H.268, which proposes a committee to develop legislation which will allow prostitution to become legal while — theoretically — keeping trafficking illegal. What this would do in reality is provide a wide swath of grey area that will allow sex traffickers to better hide their abuse behind their victims’ now legal activities, and more effectively thwart law enforcement from intervening.
Prostitution is not a stand-alone crime. Drug addiction and abuse are typically used to entice young people to sex trade, keep them performing and keep them from leaving it. Additionally, there are cases of women prostituted by boyfriends or even husbands, which is inherently abusive. Sex traffickers will not easily give up their profits or control whether legal or not. We shouldn’t pass legislation that will empower traffickers of all types and foster expansion of sex trafficking in our state.
I urge you to take action. Stop this bill from passage. Contact your state representatives before the new session begins in January and tell them so.