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“Objectively So Rare” & Rare Objectivity

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There’s been quite a lot of coverage surrounding the release of the young women, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus, abducted and held in Cleveland. Some of it has been excellent ~ most notably that on The Rachel Maddow Show on May 7, 2013.

Rachel Maddow began by discussing the Cleveland abduction cases in terms of the facts on missing persons. Of the more than 660,000 missing persons each year, roughly 75% are children ~ and of those missing children, only about 2% are non-family abductions. That makes the story of these abductions, as Maddow says, “objectively so rare” despite how prevalent with may think them to be. In fact, along with the horrors involved in the lives of these three young women (and a six year-old girl), it is this rarity of abduction by stranger which holds such power to transfix us. However justifiable our fascination, we shouldn’t overlook the facts that children and women are more likely to be abducted, assaulted, abused, raped, etc. by someone they know than they are to be by a stranger.

But Maddow didn’t stop there. No, she had more facts to discuss.

Maddow brought on guest Dr. Todd R. Clear, Dean of the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, and together they discussed some of the as-of-yet undercurrents of fear about the abductions:

MADDOW: And I think part of the reason that their cases were publicized was
because of the implicit or in some cases explicitly positing that that they
had part of human trafficking, that they had been stolen to be forced into
some sort of forced prostitution environment.

How common is that sort of thing?

CLEAR: Well, so there`s a debate in criminology about this because
the number of people who turned up missing for whom we never find any
evidence of their whereabouts, every one of them theoretically could`ve
disappeared into some form of human trafficking. And so, people who are
alarmed by this point to those numbers, those large unknown numbers and
they say, wow, this problem is immense.

On the other hand, criminologist who specialize in this problem who
have gone to other countries to study human trafficking in Asian countries,
who go underground and look at prostitution by underage youth, they find
the numbers are not small, but they are really not the size that would
alarm us. And many criminologists think that the politicization of the
human trafficking around children has distracted attention from many of the
harms that happened to adult women and adults who get involved in the
prostitution trade, around which society imposes lots of penalties.

It`s not to say this is not a problem and it clearly is. But the
debate about how big it is, one would say that mostly evidence is on the
side of the people who claim that alarming about it being alarmed about it
overblows the numbers.

MADDOW: And it would seem — I mean, I think what we`ve seen in the
reaction to this case in Cleveland is the emotional extrapolation from this
extreme and horrible case. The more we learn about it, the more horrible
it is, to those numbers, hundreds of thousands of people going missing, and
we automatically imagine the worst that everybody missing has been put into
some sort of circumstances.

CLEAR: Well, anyone who has children, you don`t know where that child
is, you imagine the worst, and for family members.

But it`s also important to say in this case this wasn`t a human
trafficking case. These —

MADDOW: Right.

CLEAR: — these girls weren`t taken off the streets and forced into
sex trade. They were taken off the streets and kept bound. It was more
like a slavery kind of an event.

But — and so concern about a widespread human trafficking underground
network — this story is not a story about that.

MADDOW: Right. There are stories about that. That is not what this
story is. It`s worth being specific even as we are so horrified by these
circumstances.

It begins at about the 5 minute mark in this clip from The Rachel Maddow Show:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(Full transcript can be found here.)

It’s important to note that the horrors of the Cleveland abductions had nothing to do with sex trafficking; Ariel Castro’s atrocities were his, the acts of single criminal male.

[This is also something folks would be equally wise to remember when it comes to the use of the word “sadist” in description of his acts; this has nothing to do with BDSM, neither in porn nor practice. Just as whatever religion Castro professes to prescribe to has nothing to do with that faith’s real practice, any other associations, assumed or claimed, should not be accepted. Castro’s inhumanity is his; to lay it at the feet of some other group, to misrepresent its origins or associations, to pretend it came from some “other” or otherwise purport false dangers, these things create panic and other actions which do not serve public safety or justice. Castro, and those like him, should be held accountable for their actions.]

Sadly, other than the short post mentioning the upcoming guests, this segment was not discussed at the official TRMS blog. But dare we hope for more sane coverage of trafficking and sex work from Maddow, the arbitrator of sanity in culture and politics?

Author: Gracie

Gracie Passette is a sex worker, though no longer working directly with clients in the flesh; she now uses media to work with the issues of sexuality. Along with founding Sex Kitten, she runs Cult Of Gracie, curates sexuality, and is The Marketing Whore.

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