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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 children are exploited through prostitution and pornography each year (Farley et al., 2003). Edwards, Iritani, and Hallfors (2006) found that the primary causes of sex trafficking are family sexual assaults, dependence on drugs, family dysfunctions, and social failures.
According to Farley et al. (2003), 82% of prostituted women 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. Although the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (2000) is instrumental in preventing sex trafficking, the number of victims to sex trafficking continues to increase (Alexandre, Sha, Pollock, Baier, & Johnson, 2014). The proposed study will compare the accuracy of news media in the portrayal of sex trafficking victims to what the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (2000) constitute as a victim.
United Nations defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of a human being by force, fraud, or coercion, for the significance of sexual exploitation (Alexander et al., 2014). 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 actual definition of sex trafficking may not require any kind of movement. Edwards et al. (2006) noted that sex trafficking can take the form of prostitution, pornography, stripping, escort services, and other sexual services.
Sex trafficking is a concern that demands studying because the number is increasing, and the victims are more exposed to severe dangers. The mortality rate of women exposed to sex trafficking is 35% higher than those women who voluntarily participate in prostitution (Edwards et al., 2006). The victims of sex trafficking are exposed to physical and psychological damages such as sexually transmitted diseases, damaged reproductive organs, and stunted emotional growth.
Investigating how media portrays these victims is significant because their representation may not accurately reflect what the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (2000) constitute as a victim. The majority 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, making it relevant for the proposed study. The study will hypothesize that media portrayal of sex trafficking victims is not as accurate as to what the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (2000) constitute as a victim.
The researcher will assign various search terms to develop a database of articles for analysis. The proposed study will examine how framing theory has been used by media to represents sex trafficking. Templeton (2011) considers framing theory as the intentional or unintentional process of a communicator creating a perspective that defines the interpretation of a message around a particular issue, event, or problem. The media utilizes certain aspects of words, phrases, or images to avail an interpretation of a subject, which forms a perspective in the judgment of the problem.
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.
Edwards, J., Iritani, B., & Hallfors, D. (2006). Prevalence and correlates of exchanging sex for drugs or money among adolescents in the United States. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 82, 354-358.
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.