Friday, August 10, 2007

Prostitution and the vasty deep

Shackled by sorcery

The Los Angeles Times is reporting this morning the breaking of a prostitution ring in southern California. Criminal indictments were unsealed Thursday against nine people who are being charged with sex-trafficking. Their scheme allegedly involved luring young women—some of them minors—from Guatemala with offers of employment in the United States:
According to the indictment, the victims were recruited in Guatemala for what they believed were legitimate jobs as baby-sitters, waitresses and other positions, then smuggled across the border with the understanding that they would repay the people who had helped them get into the United States.

Once in the U.S., they were forced into prostitution to repay inflated smuggling debts.
The girls were subjected to threats of violence in order to keep them in line and to prevent them from seeking help from the authorities. They were particularly vulnerable to magical coercion. As the Times reports:
The defendants, all of whom are in the United States illegally, also took some victims to reputed “witch doctors” in Los Angeles, warning them that a curse would be placed on them and their families in Guatemala if they tried to escape.
This hit a little too close to home for me, a member of a superstition-ridden family. I had a grandmother who took the notion of curses absolutely seriously. My sister-in-law is a complete sucker for every pseudoscientific nostrum that comes down the pike. Her daughters, my nieces, could pick up this nonsense from their mother and thus be susceptible to “magical” coercion. Fortunately, I think they're just feisty and rebellious enough not to have swallowed it whole, but I don't know.

Rational thinking is armor against the purveyors of fraud and delusion. The girls of Guatemala were not equipped to combat their exploiters. Are the young people in the United States any better prepared? Examples in my own family cause me to doubt it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was watching "Big Brother" last night (yeah yeah), and one of the characters had made a hasty and ill-thought-out promise to vote for another player. She had sealed the occasion by swearing "on the life of her daughter."

When she discovered later that the other player had betrayed her, she was furious. But she couldn't change her vote; it had been made on the life of her daughter. She seemed to actually believe that her daughter's life was caught up in a promise she made on a game show.

I am consistently bewildered by the people around me.

-- x