Women's Funding Network sex trafficking study is junk science

Schapiro Group data wasn't questioned by mainstream media

McCullough initially maintained that she stands by the Schapiro Group study, in part because she has been told that "it is the same scientific methodology that science has been using for a long time to measure endangered species."

But when pressed on whether she really believes that counting Internet photos is reliable, she grants the sex-work industry isn't exactly the gold standard of truth in advertising.

"That's absolutely correct," she says. "That's part of how that business operates: It's a bait-and-switch."

Jesse Lenz
Steve Doig, the Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University, says the Schapiro study is based on a logical fallacy
Deanna Dent
Steve Doig, the Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University, says the Schapiro study is based on a logical fallacy

Details

EDITOR'S NOTE: Village Voice Media, which owns this newspaper, owns the classified site Backpage.com. In addition to used cars, jobs, and couches, readers can also find adult ads on Backpage; for this reason, Women's Funding Network and their allies have often called attention to the site, sometimes going so far as to call for its closure.

Certainly we have a stake in this discussion. And we do not object to those who suggest an apparent conflict of interest. We sat quietly and did not respond as the WFN held symposiums across America—from Seattle to Miami—denouncing Backpage. Indeed, we were never asked for response.

But then we looked at the "science" and the media's willingness to regurgitate, without question, these incredible statistics. In the interest of a more informed discussion, we decided to write.

And given the tricky nature of the photographs, she admits that counting pictures isn't exactly a precise way to measure juvenile prostitutes.

"I can't guarantee that any picture that four of those six people said looked young—that may not be the girl that you'd get if you called up," she concedes.

Asked if she has any reason to believe that the six observers in the study have the identical 38 percent error rate as the 100 random citizens who were the initial test subjects, she allows that it might be worth revisiting that question.

The basic truth is that the study exists in service of the advocacy, and if news outlets present the Schapiro Group's numbers as gospel, it certainly doesn't hurt the advocates' cause.

Admitting that there isn't any authoritative scientific count of juvenile prostitution, as Finkelhor recommends, isn't an option in McCullough's book. She recalls an early presentation she made in Nebraska, when a politician gave her a piece of advice that stuck.

"He said, 'If you all as a movement don't start having numbers, you are going to lose the money,'" McCullough recalls. "'How can you justify millions of dollars when there are only hundreds of victims that you're actually serving?'"

   

EDITOR'S CONCLUSION: Last week, on March 16, the drumbeat continued in the U.S. Senate with a briefing on domestic minor sex trafficking that featured Hollywood actress Mira Sorvino and the startling statistic that 100,000 children are trafficked for sex annually in America.

Trafficking, in labor and sex, became a defining issue in the administration of President George W. Bush. But as an investigation by the Washington Post in 2007 revealed, victims in the sex trade were difficult to come by.

Today, advocates have shifted media attention to allegations of trafficking in children.

But facts to suggest a plague of underage perversion simply do not exist despite claims to the contrary.

In a deficit-obsessed Congress, there is a long line of those seeking tax dollars to raise awareness of trafficking: government agencies, nonprofits, religious groups, the well-intentioned, as well as abolitionists opposed to everything from pornography to adult services.

It is no surprise that some seek to use children as a wedge.

Responsible parties prosecute predators and rescue victims. Not everyone with a microphone is responsible.

The challenge of keeping children out of the hands of exploiters is real but solutions are not clear in an atmosphere of hyped hysteria.

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32 comments
moneykrap
moneykrap

This is just a fact that Women problems will debated many times from now on. Is know fact that police all over the world is fighting against this problem. I find it hard to believe that an organization as FBI, would not do all the work to fight against it.

Kim Fortin
Kim Fortin

Just so you know, I'm letting people know why I won't read the City Pages anymore and as others have pointed out below there are reasons that these articles that they've been running are suspect (i.e. money). Here's a petition to call out the Village Voice Media (and thus City Pages) (note: I'm an atheist, but the petition is extremely relevant). If Seven Days out of Vermont can survive without sex ads (yes, I know the distribution of copies is much lower), I don't see why the Village Voice/City Pages can't find some innovative, not soul-killing way to make money to keep themselves afloat without enabling sex trafficking of girls and boys to sick fucking piece of shit people. http://www.change.org/petition...

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keep researching
keep researching

Well, here's the real reason Village Voice is attacking and using junk science of their own to attack all these anti-trafficking groups.

Search for CNN and backpage dot com (Village Voice revenue comes from their back page ads):

CNN Site quotes:

CNN investigated allegations that backpage. com is facilitating the sale of underage girls for sex across America, by providing a convenient and cheap marketplace for pimps who sell the girls and the men who buy them.

CNN found cases of underage girls sex trafficked all over the country, from the suburbs of Washington to Las Vegas, where a 13-year-old girl was sold on backpage last fall, according to law enforcement authorities.

busted
busted

Google this:

From CNN: CNN investigated allegations that backpage.com is facilitating the sale of underage girls for sex across America, by providing a convenient and cheap marketplace for pimps who sell the girls and the men who buy them.

CNN found cases of underage girls sex trafficked all over the country, from the suburbs of Washington to Las Vegas, where a 13-year-old girl was sold on backpage last fall, according to law enforcement authorities.

Zero percent
Zero percent

People, New Times got busted with underage girls sold in their backpages. They've got article after article now trying to deny the reality of child trafficking, because they got busted as participants.

New Times/Village Voice, your corruption looks like crap on you. Shame on you.

Google this:

From CNN: CNN investigated allegations that backpage.com is facilitating the sale of underage girls for sex across America, by providing a convenient and cheap marketplace for pimps who sell the girls and the men who buy them.

CNN found cases of underage girls sex trafficked all over the country, from the suburbs of Washington to Las Vegas, where a 13-year-old girl was sold on backpage last fall, according to law enforcement authorities.

Ever seen a child abuser or dometic abuser busted, up close? That's how New Times acts. It's like they hit in the face as long as they can until someone calls the cops and theeeeeen all of a sudden they care about the victim. Total self interest, all the way 100%. Now they are trying to say they support anti-trafficking bills when they were just trying to deny victims exist. Sold out. Obvious. Evil.

Sergio
Sergio

Its amazing how much coverage this story got. Its not bogus and is happening. If you search google alerts and see all the news coverage and police raids, you will see sex and human trafficking is taking place. learn more about human and sex trafficking here...

http://istoptraffic.com

Stevenmn
Stevenmn

The public tends to ignore you after hearing trumped up stories and bogus studies. Another trumped up issue is so-called "child abduction". Almost all of these are the result of parental child custody disputes. In older kids its often kids that run away from abuse occurring at home.

None of this is good, but its not the case crazy scenario that's promoted in TV dramas. Like strangers jumping out of the bushes and stealing kids to molest them.

Goodguy
Goodguy

The news media just love these Sunday morning forbidden sex stories. But why tart them up with the word, 'Study?' Presumably to ad white coats and silly science the the hot sticky mix. 'juvenile prostitution is exploding at an astronomical rate.' Really! how nasty! So what else is new?

Anne
Anne

So… it sounds to me like the City Pages is denouncing this article because they don’t want to lose any funding from their advertisements from the sex industry.

Sex trafficking is illegal in Minnesota for a number of very serious and real reasons. Victims are both adults and juveniles. When illegal is illegal and there are real people being victimized, it is disappointing to see a quibble about one junk science study, when there are serious issues here.

Katya
Katya

Why on earth would you take the time to write an article about this? Even if the numbers are over exaggerated or inaccurate (although I'd be those numbers were the best they could do) it's still a serious issue. This is probably one of the most justified topic to be sensationalized to raise awareness. Unfortunately there are many Minnesotans who don't care about these people (my theory is because they're poor, Minnesotans hate the poor).

Stevenmn
Stevenmn

You'd think people would be smarter. I take most so-called studies with a grain of salt. Anyone can invent a study to support their agenda. I knew the Craigslist BS was a witchhunt from the start,, just some anti-sex bigots using the child sex-trade as leverage. Sunny1777, you're just as bad. You might have a noble cause but you just pull numbers out of your ass and I'm going to ignore you. Minnesota is 13th in child trafficking?? According to who? And, who is this dad in Edina who keeps girls locked in the basement?

Isee321
Isee321

Why call if "junk science"? Just crap would be fine. Sounds like another was on drugs.

Mt7
Mt7

I see the point about the methodological issues, but Sunny1777 has a stronger argument. And personally, it's hard to take CP seriously as an unbiased source on this topic. It appears from your ad section that a good amount of your ad revenue is generated by the sex industry.

Divinity33372
Divinity33372

EXCELLENT post. I've been criticizing this "study" since CNN was "pimping" it out at the height of the craigslist witch hunt. http://bit.ly/dR5kfd

The point is this: finding a victim of child sex trafficking is like finding a needle in a haystack. When exploiters like the groups that peddle these B.S. studies muddy up the issue they add more hay to the haystack making the needle harder to find. How can anyone who would resort to this kind of dishonesty claim to really care about children. You know, if the gov. gave them money based on these lies there should be a legal price to pay. Furthermore, I hope craigslist sues their asses! SEX WORKERS RIGHTS ADVOCATES WIN AGAIN! W00T!

Taxpayer and Football Fan
Taxpayer and Football Fan

Super Bowl 2011:

According to the media hype There was supposed to be hundreds of thousands of under age child sex slaves kidnapped and forced to have sex with super bowl fans. At the Dallas Super Bowl 2011.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THEM?????

WHERE ARE THE THOUSANDS OF SUPER BOWL KIDNAPPED FORCED CHILD SEX SLAVES???????

Politicians, women's groups, police and child advocates were predicting that up to 100,000 hookers would be shipped into Dallas for the Super Bowl.

It was all a big lie told by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, government officials, and various anti-prostitution groups: Traffick911, Not for Sale, Change-org, Polaris Project, and the Dallas Women’s Foundation, which are anti-prostitution groups that tell lies in order to get grant money from the government and charities to pay their high salaries, and get huge amounts of money into their organizations. As proved in the links below:

Top FBI agent in Dallas (Robert Casey Jr.) sees no evidence of expected spike in child sex trafficking:

“Among those preparations was an initiative to prevent an expected rise in sex trafficking and child prostitution surrounding the Super Bowl. But Robert Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said he saw no evidence that the increase would happen, nor that it did.“In my opinion, the Super Bowl does not create a spike in those crimes,” he said. “The discussion gets very vague and general. People mixed up child prostitution with the term human trafficking, which are different things, and then there is just plain old prostitution.”

http://www.dallasnews.com/spor...

This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

Brian McCarthy isn't happy. He's a spokesman for the NFL. Every year he's forced to hear why his customers are adulterers and child molesters. Brian McCarthy says the sport/super bowl sex slave story is a urban legend, with no truth at all.

These anti-prostitution groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies.

== World Cup 2006 ==Politicians, religious and aid groups, still repeat the media story that 40,000 prostitutes were trafficked into Germany for the 2006 world cup – long after leaked police documents revealed there was no truth at all in the tale. A baseless claim of 25,000 trafficking victims is still being quoted, recently, for example, by the Salvation Army in written evidence to the home affairs select committee, in which they added: "Other studies done by media have suggested much higher numbers.” Which has been proven by the German police to be completely false. Yet people still talk about these false numbers as if it were fact.

==World Cup 2010 ==Again using the made up number of 40,000 prostitutes trafficked:The behavior of fans in South Africa has run contrary to what was predicted prior to the start of the tournament after David Bayever told World Cup organizers in March it was feared that up to 40,000 extra prostitutes could converge in the host nation to meet the expected demand. Bayever, deputy chairperson of South Africa's Central Drug Authority (CDA) that advises on drug abuse but also works with prostitutes, warned: "Forty-thousand new prostitutes. As if we do not have enough people of our own, we have to import them to ensure our visitors are entertained."But the tournament in 2010, if anything, has seen the modern-day soccer fan attracted to art galleries and museums over brothels. A trend that has seen a drop in revenue across the board for the prostitution industry, which is illegal in South Africa. "Zobwa," the chairperson of Sisonke -- an action group representing around 70 street prostitutes in Johannesburg -- said business had been down over the last month. "The World Cup has been devastating. We thought it was going to be a cash cow but it's chased a lot of the business away. It's been the worst month in my company's history," the owner and founder of one of Johannesburg's most exclusive escort companies told CNN.

===The Vancouver Olympics 2010=======Again anti-prostitution groups lied and used the same figure of 40,000 or more sex slaves for the Vancouver Olympics. Again they were proved wrong. There were no sex slaves at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

In recent years, every time there has been a major international sporting event, a group of government officials, campaigning feminists, pliant journalists and NGOs have claimed that the movement of thousands of men to strange foreign countries where there will be lots of alcohol and horniness will result in the enslavement of women for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Obviously. And every time they have simply doubled the made-up scare figures from the last international sporting event, to make it look like this problem of sport/sex/slavery gets worse year on year. Yet each year it is proved false.

This myth tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in. These anti-prostitution groups need to in invent a victim that does not exist in order to get press attention.

I do not like the idea of people getting the wrong information and believing lies, no matter what the topic is. The Sex trafficking, slavery issue is one of the biggest lies being told today. It is amazing to me how people will believe such lies so easily. The media is to blame for this. I wonder why they feel such a need to report wrong stats, numbers and information about this topic without doing proper research.

While this may happen in very rare limited situations, the media will say that millions of people are sex slaves without doing any real research on the topic. Only taking the word of special interest anti-prostitution groups which need to generate money in the form of huge government grants from taxpayers, and charities. These "non profit" group's employees make huge salaries, therefore they need to lobby the government, and inflate and invent victims in order to get more money into their organizations. If you look into how many real kidnapped forced against their will sex slaves there are, and not just take the anti-prostitution groups word for it. You will be very surprised. Where are all the forced sex slaves? I would like to meet the millions of sex slaves and see for myself if they were in fact kidnapped, and forced against their will.

These anti-prostitution groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies.

This is an attempt to over inflate an issue in order to get more government money to these organizations. As a tax payer, voter, and resident I don’t want the government to mislead me.

I would like to see a news organization do a full report on the lies, myths and exaggerated numbers being told about sex trafficking slaves. But they won't do it because they are all sacred of the anti-prostitution groups, so the media continues to tell lies and only report what the anti-prostitution groups and politicians tell them to. The articles about the super bowl and sport sex slaves, has been proved wrong many times, but news organizations still report about it, as if it were fact.

Below are the few brave souls that told the truth in the media:Sex Trafficking in Sports Events links:

Dallas TV News show about super bowl sex slave myth:

http://www.wfaa.com/sports/foo...

Dallas Newspaper article:

http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

http://sextraffickingtruths.bl...

http://bebopper76.wordpress.co...

Washington post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

News night BBC video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Guardian newspaper:http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2...

Nick Davies - About Truth in the Media:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

oncefallendotcom
oncefallendotcom

It is amazing how even in the face of the truth, people still hold fast to the myth of a "child sex trafficking epidemic" in America. There are a handful of cases out there but nowhere near the levels our mass media likes to spout, and people soak it up. I see a lot of estimations passed off as valid statistics. There simply isn't any way to know how prevalent an unknown factor truly is, so they throw out "50,000" or "100,000" are victims of sex trafficking every year. Those two numbers are what is referred to as "The Goldilocks Number." The Goldilocks number is that number that the media throws out that doesn't sound like too much or too little (hence the name). It has been used from everything from number of kids who were killed by Satanic cults in the 1980s to number of dead in the Korean War. I guess we feel the need to scare people to death to make headlines. oncefallendotcom

Sunny1777
Sunny1777

I applaud CP for pointing out errors in this study, but shame on you for downplaying the most neglected and serious problem in the world. It's frustrating that WFN used shoddy studies, further discrediting human trafficking rather than bolstering funding for organizations working to stop it. But there are good studies out there, though difficult to conduct given the underground nature of trafficking.

Human trafficking (not "prostitution" as the article irreverently calls it; being sold for sex is never a "choice," especially for children) is the second biggest business in the world, nestled between arms and drug dealing. Human slavery is as old as civilization itself, and it hasn't gone away just because we had a Civil War. Minnesota is the 13th most heavily sex and slavery trafficked state in the nation, mostly due to its proximity to the Canadian border and location as a transit hub.

Organizations have only recently began to pop up to combat the problem. I am all for calling out shoddy science. But it would be nice to see CP dedicate even half as much article space to good studies, and to raising awareness about this problem, which CP never has. You cite junk science, and rather than devote any real substantive awareness about the problem, you say it's not a problem at all because of a botch study.

I have worked with children who were victims of sex trafficking. They exist at all levels of society, all over the world, in every state in the nation. What frustrates me more than anything is the vast number of people who tell me "I have never heard of that, so it must not actually be a problem." More awareness needs to be raised about this issue. Slavery and sex trafficking exist today, from the sweatshops in NYC to the suburban dad in Edina holding girls in his basement. Botch science and botch reporting both fail to adequately represent something that is an enormous problem. Most groups fighting to end modern-day slavery and sex trafficking are not using "children as a wedge" in the fight for government funding as your editor so insultingly implied. I would not have had a problem with this article were it not for this tone; call out the shoddy science, yes; but don't make the problem worse by denying a very real, very horrific, state of affairs for children of the world.

Magnoliafan
Magnoliafan

See the Twitter comment below from @nickialanoche? She's a Village Voice Media employee who has spent hours and hours blindly retweeting this article to news organizations around the county. She's one of many people charged with defending an out-of-whack business model.

Jim
Jim

Could Village Voice Media employees do a better job of disguising their identities as they post the same comments from city paper to city paper? At least they are not as ubiquitous as Kotz's article. That was embarrassing.

Sparky
Sparky

The next piece of info needed is the salaries of those who 'lead' the Womans Funding Network both in real numbers and as a percentage of their overall spending.

J.P.
J.P.

Nice piece of empirical, critical journalism. Rare-ish in this media landscape. The editor's coda is a bit graceless and heavy-handed, though. Almost as if this paper had something to gain from the facts skewing one way or the other. So odd...

justacoolcat
justacoolcat

Great article. I'm pretty sure you could work an entire career on simply exposing studies and the related funding.

YouthDevelopmentSpecialist
YouthDevelopmentSpecialist

This issue is an epidemic, and you are lying to yourself and promoting a false fairy-tale like world as the reality. Have you ever worked with any organizations that deal with trafficking? Let along child trafficking? I feel pretty comfortable saying that you haven't, and are coming from a place of opinion, and not fact. Prostitution is the 'new', even though it's not new, modern day slavery, and child trafficking falls right under that. Since you are so into what you have seen over the years, why don't you do a little research and get your facts straight before you put a topic such as this, under such a large umbrella of denial, that sugar coats the fact that children are being raped for money right here in our own back yard. Are you really that naive that you are calling this epidemic, yes it is an epidemic, a myth??? Who the feezie are YOU to say such a thing? Have you ever met a child who has been trafficked? Have you ever talked to anyone who has worked with these kids?? I am willing to bet NOT on that too. See it's privileged folks like yourselves that continuously try to downplay the realities that so many people have to go through as "not a big deal" or "not as serious as people say" that help sway people's mind away from what is the real issue!! Instead, why can't we all, as "human beings" see that people trafficking children (stripping CHILDREN of their innocence and allowing grown men and some women to rape them for money) is wrong and needs to be stopped, no matter what the numbers say. It's not about scarring people, it's about making people aware of what they are ignorant to that is happening right in front of their eyes that they have the power to change! Wrong is wrong, period!

guest
guest

YouthDevelopmentSpecialist, you are playing dumb. No one is saying it isn't serious and your effort to reshape this article to suit that approach is exactly why grown-ups need to be consulted before 'studies' get cited. You take all that emotion about a reprehensible crime and use it as an excuse for lying about the frequency. There is actually a difference between the severity of a crime and it's frequency and making up numbers like this study did does an enormous disservice to those out there who are using reality as a basis for decision making.

 
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