The #MeToo movement has emboldened many victims of sexual assault to come forward and have their stories heard with less fear of judgment than in decades prior, yet not everyone who has experienced sexual violence believes their voice will be given equal credence in the court of public opinion. Survivor advocate and friend of The CSE Institute, Alisa Bernard, provided her opinion on how #MeToo fails to fully accommodate the realities faced by those involved in commercial sexual exploitation on Truckers Against Trafficking’s January 2018 edition of “In the Know: A Survivor’s Perspective”.
Truckers Against Trafficking is an organization that informs members of the trucking industry and other travelers about human trafficking, and provides a summary of ways they can help. In addition to providing targeted training materials through their website, Truckers Against Trafficking also publishes a host of articles about trafficking on its blog. Each month they feature the voice of a trafficking survivor. Bernard’s recent piece on #MeToo highlights the dangers associated with commercial sexual exploitation that she argues are often overlooked.
In her article, Bernard urges readers to view prostitution as a form of primarily male-driven violence against women, which society has deemed legitimate by not taking it as seriously as they would if it were violence directed at congresswomen, prestigious actresses, or other women of revered status. “Prostitution is the societal scapegoat for men’s violence,” Bernard writes. “Most people don’t bat an eyelash at reports of approximately half of all prostituted women having experienced rape or that almost all (95%) of us experienced sexual harassment or that after we leave we will suffer rates of PTSD twice that of veterans returning from active duty combat,” she adds.
The CSE Institute mirrors Bernard’s concerns that the mainstream interpretation of #MeToo has not taken into consideration the violence directly associated with commercial sexual exploitation. So often people fail to realize the danger faced by all prostituted persons. They wrongly assume that prostitution is a “fact of life” that there is no way to eradicate. This patriarchal viewpoint says that the desire to buy sex is so insatiable that it must be legitimate. In practice, it means that the overall wellbeing of prostituted persons is of less value than society’s interest in being able to purchase sex on the way home from work.
We are immensely proud of the work being done by allies at Truckers Against Trafficking and applaud their desire to seek out the perspectives of survivors to further their cause. The CSE Institute is also delighted to share Alisa Bernard’s eloquently composed point of view on a topic in need of further discussion. Listening to survivors is our mission at the CSE Institute because we know that we cannot be allies in this movement to end commercial sexual exploitation without doing so. Thank you, Alisa, for allowing us to highlight your powerful voice!
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.