Critic Doubts N.Y. Times “Sex Slave” Numbers


How many “sex slaves” are there in the United States? The New York Times says at least 10,000, but media critic Jack Shafer of Slate isn’t so sure. Shafer praises Peter Landesman for h is cover story in Sunday’s Times Magazine for its “vivid description of a Plainfield, N.J., police raid on a house where four Mexican women between the ages of 14 and 17 were held captive and forced to have sex.”

Shafer is dubious about the numbers in the story, which says that “hundreds” of “stash houses” with foreign sex slaves can be found all over the country. In 2002, the U.S. government estimated between 700,000 and 4 million international victims of human trafficking each year, with 50,000 people trafficked into the United States. In 2003, the estimate was reduced to 800,000 to 900,000 people trafficked worldwide and 18,000 to 20,000 into the United States.

Landesman lets Kevin Bales of the group Free the Slaves speculate that the number of sex slaves in the U.S. is “at least 10,000 a year.” Bales claims 27 million slaves around the world, which is 10 times larger than the estimate of the Anti-Slavery Society.

Landesman reports that law-enforcement officials say there are dozens of stash houses and apartments in the New York area–mirroring hundreds more in cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago–where under-age girls and young women from dozens of countries are trafficked and held captive. If police know of these, Shafer asks, why haven’t they busted them?


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