a law passed in New York state in 2010 allows women who can prove they were coerced to have prostitution convictions wiped from their records

EarthLink – U.S. News

CICERO, Ill. (AP) — Cops in the Chicago area call it a track, a stretch of street known for its steady sex trade.

Elsewhere, a law passed in New York state in 2010 allows women who can prove they were coerced to have prostitution convictions wiped from their records – a move that advocates say allows them more options for housing and employment.

And in California, voters recently passed Proposition 35, which increases prison terms for human traffickers, as well as fines, which also are to be used to pay for services for victims.

It’s progress, experts say. Yet a question often persists: Who is really a victim?

“We’ve got this idea of an ideal victim – someone who is physically locked in a room, chained up . and who makes no money,” says Catherine Longkumer, a Chicago attorney who works with victims of trafficking to help them get their lives back together.

Certainly that classic example of the locked-up trafficking victim exists on our shores, too.

But others, she says, are forced into prostitution with more subtle, yet equally paralyzing coercion. While it’s not always obvious to the outside world, intimidation and drug addiction become tools for control.

“The reality is that traffickers are very smart,” Longkumer says. “You can use a lot of psychological coercion to keep a person bonded, things like threats, or ‘If you try to leave, you’ll be deported, or your family will be harmed.’”

But the matter of victimhood can get even murkier than that.

Bridgette Carr, a trafficking expert and clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan, sees it all the time. She is director of the law school’s human trafficking clinic, where students get credit for representing clients, many of them teens and young women who are trying to break free from traffickers and start new lives.

But can people be “victims” if they sell their bodies for sex – and keep some of that money or trade it for drugs? Are they victims if a pimp provides cellphones, buys them clothes, or even cars, or places to stay? In some instances, a prostitute might even have children with her pimp.

ok emphasis mine.

basically I think anything that helps sex workers get backup options is potentially helpful bc it is hard to quit after having no paper trail and whatever else—it’s hard to get a job, it’s hard to get an apartment, &c&c&c

but the language is whatever and also look at the first paragraph I quoted like the incentive to claim trafficking status is pretty strong.  There’s much more leniency for people who claim they’re trafficked than those who don’t.  and there is a vision of the perfect trafficking victim, as that one person says.

I mean what does coercion look like?  does it look like needing to pay your bills and feed your kids, does it look like poverty? if sex work gets you better money and hours to take care of yourself, is that a problem? isn’t the real problem violence and vulnerability and lack of access to legal protections, all indemic in a trade driven underground and out of sight? like what if you could be like “this guy is an abusive asshole & a pimp” and not worry about being thrown in jail yourself? how do you protect the most vulnerable, I mean is this it?

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