Noy Thrupkaew’s two-part series, “The Crusade Against Sex Trafficking” [Oct. 5 and 26], focuses on the work of the International Justice Mission (IJM). Unfortunately, the articles present almost none of the facts or views shared with her in more than twenty hours of interviews conducted with IJM senior staff in three countries. In addition, they contain numerous inaccuracies and mischaracterizations of IJM’s work. In the interest of a fair and informed dialogue about sex trafficking, I offer the following clarifications:
§ Today virtually every credible anti-trafficking organization–including UN agencies, NGOs and responsible governments–agrees that engagement with law enforcement is the best and only sustainable way to protect victims and apprehend perpetrators of sex trafficking. Corruption within police forces should not be a reason to deny trafficking victims the enforcement of laws designed to protect them, as the article suggests; it should be a strong argument to train and build capacity (as IJM has done for hundreds of officers around the globe).
§ IJM’s aftercare protocols for sex trafficking victims are widely considered to be state-of-the-art by anti-trafficking professionals. Thrupkaew falsely suggests that IJM “abandons” victims after rescue. IJM’s in-country social workers partner with aftercare organizations on the ground to secure shelter, medical care, psychological assistance and schooling or job training for trafficking survivors.
§ IJM does not “raid” brothels and as an NGO has no authority to do so. IJM provides investigative support and, when requested by the local police, offers technical assistance on police-initiated, court-approved enforcement of national anti-trafficking laws. When possible, IJM provides social work support during such operations to ensure excellent treatment of victims and nonvictims impacted by the police intervention.
Given the scope and urgency of the issue–to rescue thousands of children and trafficked women from lives of sexual slavery and rape–it is unfortunate to see The Nation manufacturing controversy rather than mobilizing efforts or encouraging dialogue. The dedicated staff of NGOs, governments and police agencies who stand on the front lines of the battle against child sex trafficking, and the victims they serve, deserve better (interested readers, please go to ijm.org/ijmnews/afalsecontroversy).