Archive for October 12th, 2012

Delusions that shrink to the size of a woman’s glove,
Then sicken inclusively outwards:
…the incessant recital
Intoned by reality, larded with technical terms,
Each one double-yolked with meaning and meaning’s rebuttal.
  –  Philip Larkin

Usually I can see through to the truth of a prostitution news story, despite the credulity of reporters, the obfuscatory efforts of police and the liberal use of dysphemisms.  But every so often one comes along that’s so convoluted I just can’t say anything about it with any degree of certitude.  This is one of those times; I’ll point out its problems and share my observations and impressions, but don’t expect a neat conclusion because I haven’t got one.

A Wilmington [North Carolina] high school student is facing federal charges for crimes related to prostitution.  Her mother says her daughter is a victim of sex trafficking.  Laura Berte says…Alexandrea …has been missing since July.  She contacted law enforcement but says they were reluctant to place her daughter on a missing persons list since she was 19 at the time.  Berte said she continued to push a few more times, until a Wilmington police officer helped put Alexandrea on the missing persons national database…Alexandrea…who just turned 20 this week, was recently pulled over in Tennessee for a traffic stop.  When troopers ran her name, they discovered she was on a national missing persons list.  However…[she] also had three other young women in the car along with a small amount of marijuana, several gift cards and cell phones…

No matter what the mother claims about her daughter’s mental capacity (see below), she is a legal adult, as were the other three women; if any of them had been one day below 18 you can bet she would have been described as a “child” (or at least a “girl”) rather than a “young woman”.  “Federal charges for crimes related to prostitution” would almost certainly mean the Mann Act in this context, considering she was from North Carolina but arrested in Tennessee; though the story does not make it clear I suspect she was driving and that the rental was in her name, which makes her a “trafficker” under American agency-nullifying prohibitionist policies which insist that women are imbeciles who cannot make our own business decisions.  That’s especially ironic in light of the mother’s claims, as you’ll see.

After getting a tip, Laura found her daughter on backpage.com [sic].  Like many people, she was unaware of the online adult services site, which experts say makes it easy for traffickers to advertise girls all over the country with anonymity.  In 2010, Craigslist put a stop to advertising adult services, but Backpage soon picked it up.  Experts say Backpage makes around $20 million a year for these ads.  Laura Berte said she discovered that, within five weeks, her daughter had been advertised for sex in at least as many states…

I certainly hope you expected a reference to the Backpage witch-hunt; no “domestic sex trafficking” story is complete without it.  Note the absurd oversimplification of the flow of advertising on adult sites and the subtle erosion of Alexandrea’s agency by the passive-voice “had been advertised for sex”, implying that she did not place the ads herself; also remember that one of the defining characteristics of yellow journalism established by noted historian Frank Mott is “a parade of false learning from so-called experts”.

…”It’s just so traumatic for me to…comprehend that…my daughter has been lured into this kind of lifestyle.  I feel like she’s been kidnapped.  I feel like somebody stole my baby.”  Laura Berte said her daughter has a mental capacity of a 9 year old…”My daughter’s not a criminal…She doesn’t have the mental capacity to come up with this idea on her own.  This is bigger than her and bigger than most people in this community know, and it’s happening right underneath our noses…The quality [of Alexandrea’s Backpage photos] led me to believe someone is investing time and money.”

As we’ve seen before, parents and “authorities” often claim that adult women have “the mental capacity of a child” when they wish to present her as the “victim” in some unusual sexual situation which somehow went wrong.  But as usual, this claim doesn’t hold water; if Alexandrea supposedly had the “mental capacity of a 9 year old”, then how did she get a driver’s license?  Why was she not under some sort of conservatorship?  And why haven’t local officials made statements to the Feds corroborating the mother’s claims?  I think it’s pretty obvious that the mother believes what she wants to believe; her daughter couldn’t possibly be a dirty, nasty whore, so an invisible conspiracy must have “kidnapped” her, “lured” her into this “lifestyle” (a word which is nearly always pejorative), and apparently manipulated her from afar with mind-control rays.

National human trafficking experts say one third of all runaways are trafficked or exploited for sex within the first 48 hours after they go missing…Local experts say…North Carolina…happens to be one of the top ten states for human trafficking with contributing factors such as poverty and location.  Many girls have been trafficked up and down the East Coast, making North Carolina a drive-thru destination.  Women trafficked from New York to Miami have also likely been trafficked through North Carolina…

Really?  Fucking really?  Apparently these so-called “experts” (see Mott’s rule above) haven’t bothered to read any actual studies, which show that 84% of underage prostitutes (much less “all runaways”) have never even met a “pimp” even after they’ve been on the streets for months or years.  If a third were “exploited for sex” every 48 hours, virtually all of them would be within a month…and methodologically sound studies say exactly the opposite.  On a lighter note, here’s North Carolina’s entry in the “top human trafficking hub” pissing contest.

…North Carolina does not see ‘pimping’ as a felony…

Well, even a stopped clock…

…even if a minor gets arrested for prostitution, they could serve time as an adult.  Experts say that’s a fault within the system since minors would clearly be trafficking victims…

Oh, clearly.  Because everybody knows that teenagers are innocent children up until the magical Moment of Shazam, and therefore could not possibly conceive of the idea of selling sex.

…There were three other women in the car at the time – one was an 18 year old from Lumberton [North Carolina].  Another woman was from North Carolina [?] and the third was from Kansas.  Everyone but Allie was released…

Considering the current “sex trafficking” hysteria, this is the most interesting detail in the whole story, and the one which engenders the most confusion in my mind; if it weren’t for this, I would feel almost completely certain about every statement I’ve made so far.  If these other girls were hookers, too, why were they let go instead of being forcibly “rescued”, and why weren’t they charged for the marijuana?  If they weren’t hookers, what’s the basis of the Mann Act charge against Alexandrea? Is she supposed to have “trafficked” herself?  Or is the reporter as mistaken about the federal charges as she is about nearly everything else in this train wreck?  Given the tendency of embarrassing journalistic debacles to vanish from the national media, I don’t expect any more on this one; however, I’m going to ask my contacts in North Carolina to keep an eye out for a follow-up in the local media and I’ll let you know if I find out anything more.

Update:  A reader sent me this brief item which confirms that “Alexandra” (I’m not sure if this or the unusual spelling in the other story is correct) has been charged under the Mann Act, as I surmised.

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