#sextrafficking | For survivors of sex trafficking, a path toward justice and hope | #tinder | #pof | #match


State Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter recently announced the Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act, legislation decriminalizing people in prostitution, expanding social services, and holding accountable those who harm our communities — pimps, sex buyers and brothel owners.

This is historic criminal justice reform made possible by listening to and working with survivors.

I am a survivor of sex and labor trafficking. At 24, I was trafficked in New York, the very place I called home.

Krueger and Hunter actively involved survivors like me to create solutions to meaningfully help those in prostitution. They listened to our lived experiences and policy expertise.

Sex trafficking affects people everywhere, including in the U.S. In 2019, in our state alone, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received reports of 312 sex-trafficking cases. The actual number is likely higher as most victims have been threatened or silenced.

While the majority of those trafficked are vulnerable women and girls, victims include males and LGBTQ+ folks like me. Sex trafficking includes sexual violence, use of power and control, and exploitation of people, often by their communities.

Sex trafficking is the vehicle and prostitution the destination — inextricably linked, fueled by sex buyers’ money. Buyers, with their privilege and entitlement, exert power to use the body of another human being.

Current laws in our state are not as effective, trauma-informed or victim-centered as they must to protect those at risk and help those exploited in the sex trade — the system profiting off marginalized bodies and vulnerable communities.

The criminal justice system has been failing those it swore to protect, criminalizing those in prostitution — most often people hurt by poverty, homelessness, and discrimination — instead of exploiters. For too long, law enforcement profiled victims, with Black and brown people and the LGBTQ community tokenized, swept up in raids, incarcerated. This must stop.

The repeal of the walking-while-trans ban is a right first step. But we must go further without allowing pimps, traffickers and sex buyers to harm with impunity.


We don’t hear from those who are rendered voiceless because they are trapped. As a survivor, I am here to remind you that prostitution is not harmless. People in prostitution suffer lifelong mental, psychological and physical trauma. Buyers, the majority of whom are men, pay to use our bodies however they demand. Pimps and buyers are in control.

When I was at my most vulnerable — HIV-positive, homeless, undocumented, alone, fearing rejection as a gay man — I was easy prey to traffickers. Offering a place to stay and help with food and medication, they tricked me to traffic me. “Customers” thought I was doing great, I was happy, it was my choice. In reality, I was dying inside.

It is easy to assume people are in the sex trade “by choice.” But when offering your body feels like the only alternative to death, is that a real choice?

The sex trade excels at trapping people when they are most vulnerable. Once trapped, many disassociate to survive; some rationalize their exploitation, believing it is what must be done to meet their most basic needs. In reality, just surviving is not enough. Our communities deserve more than being, as Audre Lorde described, “born to survive.”

The sex trade is rooted in homophobia, transphobia, police violence, racism, capitalism, patriarchy. Profiting off sexual abuse and exploitation cannot be normalized.

The Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act ends the criminalization of people bought and sold for sex. It also creates access to holistic services, including medical care, mental health resources, education and economic empowerment.

As an immigrant, an LGBTQ+ person of color, a survivor, and a proud New Yorker, I am raising my voice to demand: Stop commodifying and profiting from our bodies. Listen and believe us. Prostitution harms. It destroys lives. It is a crime against our communities. We can change this now by passing the Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act.

Cristian Eduardo is a member of New Yorkers for the Equality Model, www.equalitymodelny.org.



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