Katie Feifer is the Research Director of The Voices and Faces Project and chairs the leadership group of CounterQuo. Feifer is also a founding co-chair of World Without Exploitation, the movement to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation. She has worked for forty years in communications, market research, strategic planning and meeting facilitation, first as a Vice President at Leo Burnett, a communications firm, and then as an independent consultant for Fortune 500 companies and organizations addressing violence against women.
Jody Raphael is Senior Research Fellow, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Law Center, DePaul University College of Law, Chicago, Illinois. She has researched prostitution and human trafficking since 2001 and is the author of four books on violence against women with particular emphasis on denial. Her latest book is Rape Is Rape: How Denial, Distortion, and Victim Blaming Are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis (Chicago Review Press, 2013).
Kezban Yagci Sokat, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor in the Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences Department at Northwestern University. She received her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences (IEMS) from Northwestern University. She completed master’s degrees in Industrial Engineering (MSIE) and Health Systems Engineering (MSHS) from Georgia Institute of Technology (GT) with Fulbright scholarship. Dr. Yagci Sokat’s research focuses on using mathematical modeling and decision analytics to alleviate human suffering. Her main research interests are human trafficking, humanitarian logistics, and healthcare operations. She specializes in integrating limited information in decision making for NGOs and public officials. Dr. Yagci Sokat has published her research in prestigious academic journals and presented in many conferences. She pursues multiple projects on national initiatives to integrate decision analytics and operations research to human trafficking and policing in collaboration with local and national efforts. She recently attended the closed call National Science Foundation Workshop on Decision Analytics for Dynamic Policing as the team lead for Chicago in Washington, D.C.
A recent study by Cunningham, DeAngelo, and Tripp (unpublished 2017, 2019) found that advertising prostitution online led to a lower rate of homicide of women in the United States. These findings have circulated widely in the mainstream media as proof that advertising prostitution online increases the safety of prostituted women. The study’s findings were used to argue against the 2018 passage of a federal anti-trafficking bill: Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), known collectively as FOSTA-SESTA. This new law holds websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking accountable for the harms they cause. Passage of the legislation led to the shutdown of sites that profited from prostitution advertising. Backpage.com, a major site for prostitution advertising, was shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice just days following Congress’ passage of the legislation, but prior to FOSTA-SESTA being signed into law. Within days of the passage of the legislation, operators of other prostitution advertising sites shuttered their sites. Our critique of the article is based on the assumptions and methodology employed by Cunningham et al. We find the study is methodologically flawed. First, the study fails to demonstrate a link between the decline in the female homicide rate and online prostitution advertising. Second, the study does not measure the murder rate within the population of women in prostitution to show that online prostitution advertising keeps prostituted women safe. Third, the authors attempt to explain the reasons for a decline in the murder rate of women via speculation. Fourth, the study defines “safety” as not being murdered, ignoring other forms of violence inherent in the sex trade. Fifth, Cunningham et al. wrongly extrapolate findings from 2002 to the present by speculating about the impact of FOSTA-SESTA on prostituted women’s safety, without accounting for shifts in Internet culture and usage. The findings and conclusions from this study could lead people to believe falsely that using and expanding online prostitution advertising sites will reduce violence against all women, as well as prostituted women. The safety of people in prostitution is a serious concern. Consequently, other measures should be examined to protect them.
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Feifer, Katie; Raphael, Jody; and Yagci Sokat, Kezban
"Do Prostitution Advertisements Reduce Violence Against Women? A Methodological Examination of Cunningham, DeAngelo, and Tripp Findings,"
Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence:
3, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dignity/vol4/iss3/7
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