The headline in the feed from my local news station declares “Reading Police bust 8 women in undercover prostitution sting.” Then there was the picture: 8 women each with clear bruises on her face, all looking totally dejected.
My first thought – where are the pictures of the pimps and the johns (customers) who have inflicted the bruises on these women? Why arrest and publicly shame women who are clearly victims?
The use of the word “bust” in the headline is a vain attempt to make this sound like some sort of major accomplishment by the local police force. But it is easy to arrest women who are selling themselves. It is also rather pointless as the pimps will just find more women, perhaps move to another location, and keep the business rolling. Why not arrest the pimps? I fear the answer is that it is harder.
After all, here is how the story starts:
Complaints about prostitution have helped police put a dent in one Reading neighborhood’s illegal sex trade. Investigators said the city’s prostitution problem has been an ongoing issue in certain neighborhoods, so RPD vice officers went undercover Monday night in the area of South Eighth and Chestnut, the 500 and 600 blocks of Chestnut and the 400 and 500 blocks of Franklin streets. “I see girls walking up and down the street basically getting in cars all day long. It causes a lot of traffic in our neighborhoods that don’t need to be here,” said Walter Fackler, a resident of the neighborhood.
Complaints by residents are totally understandable. Frustrations of increased traffic also makes sense. Who wants traffic clogging their neighborhood? Arresting these women seems like a win for the neighborhood and the city – the police have a big headline and the neighbors are happy. Of course, I wonder again, why not go after the pimps…you know, the ones who are literally the reason for the increased traffic!
“It brings a negative impact to the city that we’re trying to make a better place,” said Sean Moretti, who sits on the board of directors for the Reading Main Street Program. Moretti said he’s seen the illegal activity outside his office on South Fifth Street, and now he’s praising the police. “We call and complain and I’m glad they’ve done something about it,” Moretti said.
Yes, the police did something. And this “something” may have helped this one community, at least for a time. But this “something” they did is not going to put a dent in prostitution in the city as a whole. But again, the undesirables have been swept away and everyone is happy. Well, the women who now have one more reason not to turn to the police or the community for help are probably not happy…but no one asked them for their opinion.
One of the problems is simply a lack of education. What if it was more common knowledge that:
*95% of prostituted women have said they want out of the life but can’t leave due to a variety of circumstances from being controlled by a pimp to having no job skills to speak of.
*The majority of women (anywhere from 70 up to 95%) in prostitution have experienced physical abuse.
*Over 90% of prostituted women were sexually abused prior to entering prostitution*
Statistics like these above, and stories to go with the numbers, about on the internet. The simple fact is that nothing is going to change in our society until we stop shaming women, stop plastering pictures of women arrested for prostitution all over the internet, and start doing the difficult work of arresting the pimps and the johns.
*I found these statistics here but there are many places where similar stats are found.