The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women is Urging the City of Atlanta to Investigate Recent Shootings’ Potential Connections to Sex Trafficking
Atlanta, GA, March 18, 2021 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) is deeply saddened by the events in Atlanta in which a perpetrator brutally took the lives of one man and seven women — six of whom were Asian and who were seemingly targeted for their race and because they were women. The organization is calling on the City of Atlanta to investigate this case as a hate crime against women as well as its possible connections to sex trafficking.
While the case is unfolding and few details are known about the circumstances that led to the lethal shooting, the preliminary fact patterns presented are familiar.
Illicit “massage parlors” are some of the highest risk venues for the sex trafficking of undocumented, immigrant women, who are often from Korea or China and frequently in debt bondage (an element of human trafficking). These establishments flourish because of men who purchase sexual acts with impunity. The accused gunman appears to have targeted Asian women in three of the hundreds of “massage parlors” across Georgia, reportedly admitting that he habitually patronized prostitution and has called it a “sex addiction.” The act of sex buying is not generally one of “sex addiction” but an expression of abuse of power and gender-based violence and discrimination.
CATW cannot consider this tragedy an isolated attack, but sees it as possibly linked to the global sex trade, whose underpinning relies on systemic racism and misogyny and which is fueled by sex buyers.
“The state of Georgia has tragically given illicit ‘massage parlors’ a pass in their regulations, which must end if we want to address commercial sexual exploitation and avoid witnessing atrocities like this happen again in our backyards,’’ said Stephanie Davis, CATW board member and policy adviser to former Mayor Shirley Franklin. “As a longtime advocate against human trafficking in Atlanta, I am urging our officials to engage in deep analysis of this case, including the male demand for prostitution.”
This case, like too many others across the country, serves as evidence that sex buyers are the primary source of violence against, and sometimes murder of, women and transwomen, mostly of color, in the sex trade. The U.S. federal definition of sex trafficking makes it clear that “patronizing” victims is a central element of sex trafficking. The most effective way for the state to prevent the sex trade from expanding and further harming vulnerable women is to hold sex buyers accountable and provide victims the services they need
“According to reports, the shooter is confessing that he is a habitual sex buyer, addicted to porn and hates women,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, CATW’s executive director. “We must also understand that legacies of misogyny, and racial fetishization and stereotyping also likely played a role here. The City of Atlanta must investigate this case as a hate crime against women; examine whether sex trafficking elements are present; provide services to the surviving women in the “massage parlors;” and ensure justice for the ones who have perished in them.”