Scranton, Pa

Student Blog Series: Hidden in Plain Sight: A Harmful Misconception About Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Posted: March 8, 2019

We are excited to share the second installment of our 2019 Student Blog Series!  The student blog series highlights original pieces authored by first-year law students at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Read on for Kendal Hutching’s contribution to the Student Blog Series, and check back soon for additional installments of our series. 

Age six. I am with my dad in our new black Toyota Tacoma driving down Main Street in my small hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. I remember driving past pine trees, train stations, and the ever-eclectic Sweet Nothing’s I Do! I Do! Wedding Boutique. The store had giant paintings of pin-up girls in lingerie and men in tuxedos, making six-year old girls all over my town blush.

One decade later. I am sixteen and reckless. In the now beat up, black Tacoma, I breeze past Sweet Nothing’s to find a very different scene than what I remembered from childhood. Now the business is overwhelmed with yellow caution tape and police sirens. The FBI swarmed like bees around the hive that was the once haute, wedding boutique. As I would soon discover, the owners of the store were running a trafficking ring in their attic, importing young and vulnerable women to the United States from Southeast Asia with the promise of a “better future.”

Sweet Nothings sat 500 feet from the city court house, the Mayor’s office and City Hall. Politicians proclaimed this instance to be wholly “unpredictable” to concerned citizens. Neighbors gossiped: “…in our own backyard?! How did we not see this coming?”

The real question is “why should we, as a society, be surprised?” A common misconception about exploitation is that it occurs only in foreign countries. This is not only incorrect, but toxic and harmful to victims of trafficking hidden all over the United States. These individuals have become unknown faces fading into the background of a society that often is unable to recognize the signs of trafficking until it is too late.

Government agencies, news outlets, television, and other media sources fuel the hysteria that commercial sexual exploitation “just doesn’t happen around here.” The glamour following commercial sex trade is a screen to hide the gruesome reality of exploitation. Meanwhile there are victims at the grocery store buying the same 2% milk as you, hiding in plain sight, trying to heal the wounds that commercial exploitation has put, not just on their bodies, but inside their minds.

Until we as Americans have the capacity to holistically recognize the grim realities of commercial exploitation, this issue will continue to hide from those who are willingly ignorant. This population of our nation is one of the most vulnerable; yet without the piercing light of public scrutiny, a never-ending parade of victims will continue to be exploited.

How can we make a positive impact on the ever-active trafficking industry right here in the United States?  To effectively combat commercial sexual exploitation of this nature, we must continue to educate the public about our reality. Even as recent as February of this year, the allegations against Robert Kraft and other prominent men, demonstrates the presence of commercial sexual exploitation at all levels of American society. Local authorities in Jupiter, Florida, following their investigation stated that targeting demand is the more effective way to crack down on supply of trafficking. This is one part of a holistic solution, which should include targeting, and apprehending sex buyers, as well as offering rehabilitative solutions for victims. To effectively educate the community on the realities, rather than misconceptions, of commercial sexual exploitation will contribute to effective policies that will make a true difference in the lives of survivors. We must take every opportunity to educate the community in order to combat these harmful misconceptions, so that no other individual gets exploited like the women at Sweet Nothing’s Wedding Boutique.



Kendal Hutchings is a first year student at the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Kendal is originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, but now resides in central New Jersey. Kendal attended California Baptist University as a student athlete and now holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor’s of Sciences in Political Science, with an emphasis on law. Upon graduation, Kendal hopes to use her skills to help make a difference in the lives of others.




All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.

Category: News

« Back to News
  • Learn More About The CSE Institute

    We welcome contact from organizations and individuals interested in more information about The CSE Institute and how to support it.

    Shea M. Rhodes, Esq.
    Tel: 610-519-7183

    Prof. Michelle M. Dempsey
    Faculty Advisor
    Tel: 610-519-8011

    Contact Us »