Human Trafficking in the Midwest
A Case Study of St. Louis and the Bi-State Area
There is a plethora of literature on the subject of human trafficking. I have had the privilege of reading many survivor memoirs, which are powerful, first-hand experiences that cannot be denied their importance. I have read strong analysis on the dynamics of prostitution and the consequences on the prostituted that are equal to the consequences of trafficking on the trafficked. I have read investigative reporters accounts as they traveled the world and saw trafficking in multiple settings and read their thoughts as to the contributing factors that led to the devastating practice. What I haven’t read until now was an academic study focused mainly on one major American city.
The authors of Human Trafficking in the Midwest: A Case Study of St. Louis and the Bi-State Area took two years to really examine what was happening in St. Louis and the surrounding area from a multi-level approach. They conducted interviews with survivors of human trafficking, social service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, and community leaders in their effort to evaluate and provide a clear and true picture of what is and isn’t happening to address the issue of human trafficking in the studied area.
Through an analysis of the scope of the problem in the area, current legislation to address it and the service providers and law enforcement who intersect with the victims at different stages, this book provides the reader with a deeper understanding of what is going well in regard to fighting human trafficking as well as the areas that need more focus and resources.
While this book would be of interest to someone involved in the anti-trafficking movement living in Missouri or Illinois, it isn’t that limited either. The trends, both positive and negative, in the anti-trafficking movement in these areas are also evident at the national level.
For instance, there is such a focus on domestic sex trafficking that labor trafficking is most often overlooked. That is something found throughout the United States, and not just the case in this Midwestern region. The dearth of services for LGBTQ youth is, again, not limited to the Midwest, but is keenly felt around our nation. The findings that many of the commercially sexually exploited youth in the Midwest are runaways engaging in survival sex with adults exploiting their vulnerabilities is consistent with national trends.
By taking a deep look at a smaller region, the authors help the reader truly understand the successes and failures in the current anti-trafficking landscape. The interviews throughout are insightful and helpful for layering the analysis from the authors. I would recommend this book, as it provides a view of the common regional underpinning – with its holes -- for the nation’s anti-trafficking superstructure, and it helps point advocates in a more focused direction. It is essential that we take a step back from what we feel would be helpful and look at well-researched analysis to determine what the holes are in the fabric of services and what would, in fact, be the most beneficial for the populations in need of intervention and services.