U.S. NEWS

Robert Kraft’s Arrest Is About Way More Than Just Him

The real story is the story of vulnerable women.

Billionaire Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged on Friday with soliciting sex at a massage parlor in Florida. The charges came after a reported six-month sex trafficking investigation into southern Florida massage parlors that resulted in 10 of those parlors being shut down. About 300 arrest warrants were issued at the conclusion of the investigation, including one for Kraft.

“These girls are there all day long, into the evening,” Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey said in a Friday press conference.

“They can’t leave and they’re performing sex acts. Some of them may tell us they’re OK, but they’re not.”

Kraft’s involvement in the sting turned it into a national news story. But the important takeaway from his arrest is that it affects many people beyond a white billionaire who owns an NFL team that just won its sixth Super Bowl.

The real story is the vulnerable women targeted by powerful men.

What Sex Trafficking Is ... And Isn’t  

Crucial to any discussion on “prostitution rings” is a clear definition of what sex trafficking actually is.

The federal definition of sex trafficking is essentially soliciting, transporting or harboring someone being forced or coerced into sex acts. Sex trafficking is often also used interchangeably with human trafficking, mostly because sex trafficking has become a favored morality crusade among the evangelical right. In reality, sex-trafficked people are a fraction of the overall population of victims. Hotels, garment factories, farms, construction sites, and restaurants are all places where human trafficking is happening at greater amounts.

Sex workers often engage in consensual sex work out of survival, which is an entirely different scenario but one often conflated with sex trafficking ― with detrimental effects.

In Florida, some women were arrested and charged with a crime as part of the investigation, although police have not specified how many. One woman was charged with human trafficking.

“We know that … even though we may have charges on some of them, we’d rather them be victims,” Currey said Friday.

While the identities of the women in the sting have yet to be released, what we do know is that not all of them may want or need “rescuing” by law enforcement.

“The ... complicated reality is that many women who would objectively qualify as trafficking victims are not necessarily interested in being seen or treated as helpless objects,” Yvonne C. Zimmerman wrote in her 2013 book Other Dreams of Freedom: Religion, Sex and Human Trafficking.

Those women may be particularly uninterested in being “helpless” when those tasked with helping them are members of law enforcement. Law enforcement officers regularly mistreat sex workers with impunity. Across the country, sex workers have reported being raped, coerced or otherwise targeted by those tasked with keeping them safe.

For the women in the southern Florida sting, telling the police officers that “they’re OK” may be the safest way out.

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