Slate’s Jack Shafer continues his critique of the New York Times January 2004 magazine cover story on sex slaves in America, “The Girls Next Door.” Shafer said author Jonathan Landesman conjured a vision of an international “sex-trafficking epidemic” and the nightmare of tens of thousands of women and girls smuggled annually into the U.S., held prisoner, and forced to service johns for the benefit of their pimps.
A 2003 State Department report estimated that 18,000 to 20,000 individuals were trafficked here for forced labor and sexual exploitation. The Times quoted what Slate calls a “pulled-out-of-thin-air estimate by Kevin Bales of the advocacy group Free the Slaves, that at least 10,000 new sex slaves joined the count each year. A State Department report last week does not venture a number, but a June 4 news story by the Voice of America attributes a figure of 15,000 to a State Department figure. “So much for the ‘epidemic’ Landesman posited in his piece,” says Shafer. The numbers convicted for sex-trafficking seem low: 118 in the last four years versus 59 in the previous four-year period.