Sex trafficking is a social problem affecting more than millions of victims. The International Labor Office in Geneva has estimated that more than 1.8 million teenagers are abused through pornography and prostitution (Farley et al., 2003). According to Farley et al. (2003), 82% of sex trafficking victims have been physically assaulted, 78% of these women have been threatened, 60% have been kidnapped, and 40% have been raped more than three times. Due to the prevalence of sex trafficking, the U.S government established the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000 (Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, 2000) to end human trafficking. Media also plays a significant duty in the fight against sex trafficking.
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Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (2000) defines sex trafficking as the enlistment, shipping, transfer, harboring, or receipt of a human being by force, coercion, or fraud for the significance of sexual mistreatment. This includes victims who are less than 18 years of age. This means that the selling of women or men in brothels, as well as the pimping of young girls on the streets, is sex trafficking.
The Protective Innocence Initiative (PII) and Polaris Project have incorporated Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act into their strategies in combating all kinds of sex trafficking statutes. The Protective Innocence Initiative is part of the Shared Hope International’s duty to avail education and civic responsiveness to end sex trafficking among children. The Polaris Project, as an Institution, has collected a comprehensive rundown of human trafficking statutes in many states. Due to these two institutions, Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act is a comprehensive tool that covers all victims subjected to sex trafficking.
The use of media is a critical tool in which most of the citizens in the United States are informed of sex trafficking. Most of Americans gather their information about events and issues through diverse forms of media. In the digital age, electronic newspapers are consulted by more than 70% of news consumers, rendering the medium influential, not only in providing information but also influencing belief and attitude (Templeton, 2011).
Because of this platform, Americans get most of the information regarding victims of sex trafficking. Therefore, the way the news media demonstrates sex trafficking has an impact on how society perceives and characterizes the victims of sex trafficking.
News journalists use framing theory to analyze the interaction between media and consumers. Framing is the intentional or unintentional process in which a communicator creates a perspective that shapes the interpretation of an event, issue, or problem. This strategy stresses the certain dimension of an issue while de-emphasizing or ignoring others. The framing of an event impacts the definition of the problem, the perceived consequence, and the solution. The media uses certain words, phrases, or images to provide an interpretation of a subject, which forms a point of view by which action connected to the problem may be judged.
Although the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act is instrumental in preventing sex trafficking, the number of victims to sex trafficking continues to increase (Alexandre, Sha, Pollock, Baier, & Johnson, 2014). Therefore, there is a need to investigate how other approaches, such as media, contribute to the fight against sex trafficking. This will help policymakers recognize the prevalence of sex trafficking and develop strategies to reduce this prevalence. Investigating how media portrays these victims is significant because their representation may not replicate what Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act have established as a victim.
Alexandre, K., Sha, C., Pollock, J., Baier, K., & Johnson, J. (2014). Cross-national coverage of human trafficking: A community structure approach. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 22(3), 160 -174.
Farley, M., Cotton, A., Lynne, J., Zumbeck, S., Spiwak, F., Reyes, M.,… Sezgin, U. (2003). Prostitution and trafficking in nine countries: An update on violence and posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Trauma Practice, 2(3/4), 33-74.
Templeton, J. (2011). Framing: Encyclopedia of power. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) of 2000, 42 U.S.C. § 106 (2000 & Supp. 2000).