Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress

By Melissa Farley, PhD, Editor

Review by Stephen Stolzberg, MD

Winter 2005 - Volume 9 Number 1

The opening chapter of this multiple-author book is titled, "Hidden in Plain Sight"--a title that would have been suitable for the book itself. While gay marriage has inspired polemics and even consideration of a possible constitutional amendment, the plight of prostitutes and other so-called "sex workers" is not the stuff of front pages. For instance, the following three articles appeared inside three September issues of the New York Times and the Financial Times: "Tokyo's red light district faces a ritual cleansing,"1 "Determining the future of a girl with a past: is the answer to child prostitution forced counseling or incarceration?,"2 and "Bid to decriminalize prostitution in Berkeley."3 The first article manages to avoid using the word prostitution and concludes with a quote from an author who has written about the Kabuchiko district: "People here work hard for their living and they love this area .... If we sweep all this clean, what will happen to all these wonderful people?"1 The second article talks about a 12-year-old girl who was arrested and charged with prostitution and the year of "wrangling ... [involving] Family Court, ... prosecutors, judges, dueling therapists, court appointed lawyers, child welfare authorities, a representative of the state's juvenile jails, and a [charity] that provides housing for troubled adolescents."2 The third article depicts the conflict of opinions provoked by Robyn Few, a former prostitute who put an initiative on the ballot in Berkeley, California, to make prosecution of prostitution a low priority for the city's police. The editor of this book, Melissa Farley, is a San Francisco psychologist now retired after many years with The Permanente Medical Group and active with an organization called Prostitution Research and Education. She opposes Ms Few. Dr Farley says, "This is an ordinance that reflects the interests of johns and pimps ...."3 Dr Farley evidently disagrees with Dr Barbara Brents, a University of Nevada sociology professor, who believes that, "In a perfect world, there is no reason women can't set up shop [as prostitutes] and run their own businesses the same way a therapist would."3


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