“Sex trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years.” – Department of Health and Human Services


I’m from Portland Oregon. The most beautiful city in the US. We have the best coffee, brew the best beer, have an amazing music scene and we’re an hour from the ocean and the mountain. The T.V. show Portlandia calls it “the place where young people go to retire”. I agree. I pride myself in knowing every district, and where to head each first, second, and third thursday of the month to catch the local festivities.

Sex trafficking was a foreign phenomenon to me until Dan Rather’s “Pornland” aired. It’s a segment discussing Portland’s thriving “legitimate” and illegitimate sex industry. I had no idea that we had the most strip clubs per capita, even beating out Las Vegas. And I had no idea we had the second highest  human trafficking rate in the nation. It feels like the door blew open and information seems to be everywhere I go. For those of you who may still be in the dark, here’s a brief rundown:  

Trafficking is a foreign and domestic problem. A foreign girl can be tricked into coming overseas with promise of work, marriage and opportunity, and then be forced into performing sexual acts to pay back a debt for travel or living expenses. Domestically, a trafficker has an eye for a girl(or boy) that can be easily groomed. They will buy the girl or boy with gifts, and “love”, targeting individuals with difficult social and family lives, then pressure them into giving sexual favors. Both cases leading to threats of revealing the trafficked person’s sexual activity to relatives and authorities. It can be a very slippery slope, leading from stripping just this once, or being filmed having sex with a friend, to full time prostitution and pornography. I heard someone say “Where there is a “Legitamite” Sex industry, people are exploited”. It’s kinda hard for me to dismiss a correlation between having the most strip clubs per capita, and the second highest trafficking rate. Doesn’t it make sense?

Demand spikes, there’s a shortage of girls, so new ones are brought in along with groomed young local girls. Demand is big for an exotic girl that’s easier to control, and demand is increasing for younger girls.(Average age of underage prostitutes is 13). In all of this we must realize these trafficked people are being used for pornography as well as prostitution. I’ve struggled with porn in the past, and have still messed up within this past year, and I can’t tell you if the girl on that screen was trafficked or not. Was she in a debt that she will never get out of? Was she a sophomore in high school that got blackmailed into having sex in front of a camera? Here’s my thought: some girls who do porn, do it by choice, but a huge amount of them are being coerced, threatened and abused illegally, and you will never know the whole story. The idea haunted me for weeks, and we have to understand that our demand for porn, is directly fueling demand for trafficked girls.   

I’ve heard ignorance is bliss. Maybe. But not for you anymore. Once we realize the implications of our actions on the real world, we have a responsibility to defend and speak for our fellow man, especially the weak and exploited.