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Source mediaFelicia Anna (Behind The Red Light District)

This week there was a lot of commotion about a Facebook post the police of Amsterdam did on their page. The post was centered around the European day for Human Trafficking, and was supposed to be about human trafficking. In stead the police of Amsterdam choose to single out only human trafficking in prostitution, and they where very stigmatizing and plain dumb with their statements.
The choice to pick (yet again) prostitution as a way to talk about human trafficking is interesting, since the last known statistics from Amsterdam show us that the majority of the possible victims don't even work in prostitution at all, but are exploited in another industry. In fact last known specified statistics show us that 62% of the possible victims in Amsterdam (43 possible victims in total) where exploited in another industry than prostitution, leaving only 38% of the victims coming from the prostitution industry itself (or 26 possible victims in total).
But besides the fact that the choice of the police to write about human trafficking in prostitution is an interesting choice, considering the fact that the majority of trafficking happens outside of the prostitution industry in Amsterdam, and the fact that prostitution is far more often associated with trafficking compared to any other industry, making it already stigmatizing on itself to yet again talk about only trafficking in prostitution. The article itself made the Dutch union of sexworkers PROUD angry by claiming that 'no 12 year olds would dream of becoming a prostitute' and that 'nobody does this voluntarily no matter how much they claim to be'. So PROUD filed an official complaint with the police of Amsterdam demanding a rectification. 
Due to the media attention the response of PROUD caught the police quickly formulated a response, claiming that they didn't meant that 'nobody would voluntarily become a prostitute', but that 'nobody would voluntarily become a victim'. Of course that goes without saying, I mean, have you ever heard anyone claiming they voluntarily would become victim of a crime? Of course not!
So of course the police meant that they didn't believe any prostitute would willingly do this job voluntarily, which corresponds with what they mention as motives to become a prostitute in their article, namely: poverty, loverboys and abuse. Applying those same motives to becoming a victim wouldn't make any sense, since nobody would voluntarily become a victim in the first place, but more importantly, you cannot become a victim of trafficking by poverty!!! Doing your job because otherwise you have no money is not a crime, and certainly not human trafficking.
And even than, they still wrote, and I quote: 'There's no 12 year old girl that answers to the question what you want to become when you grow up: I want to become a prostitute.' A pretty clear example that they weren't talking about victims, but about how they can't believe that women do this job voluntarily, and even stating that women who do this job to financially support themselves (out of poverty) are forced in their eyes. This also corresponds with almost all of their previous reports, in which they often make very high estimations, purely based on their own gut feelings, about how many prostitutes are forced into prostitution, as for example their report 'Schone Schijn' does, which estimated for example that between 50 to 85% of the prostitutes where forced, without doing any research about this.
So yes, the police their claim that they meant to talk about victims rather than prostitutes is purely a lie they told to avoid public blame. But there's so much more wrong with this article. For example, they claim that many women, often minors, are forced into prostitution. But looking at the most recent statistics from the police of Amsterdam itself, it shows that this is not 'often' the case as they claim. Last year they reported in total 59 possible victims in Amsterdam of which 4 where under the age of 18, so that's in total 6,8% of all possible victims in Amsterdam. By all accounts that cannot be called 'often', but more occasionally.
But probably most of all I'm angry about the tone of this article. The headline of the Facebook post of the police alone reads 'These women sometimes get raped 10 times a day'. The article purely makes it look as if trafficking victims in prostitution are all women that get raped day after day. But simple fact is that this does not apply to all victims. In fact, many victims are women that choose voluntarily to become a prostitute, unlike how the police chooses to believe, but got into a situation in which they became exploited. Often this involves women who needed help getting into prostitution, often in combination with migrating from another country to The Netherlands, and paid a high price for this to people offering this help, functioning almost like a job agency. Women in these kind of situations choose very consciously for this profession, but simply needed help because the Dutch government made it so difficult for women to enter prostitution. This is done on purpose by the way by the Dutch government, which is called the barrier model, which is supposed to prevent victims from easily getting caught in prostitution. But in reality this barrier model actually creates a lot of human trafficking, because now women that want to enter prostitution have to rely on others, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
The police obviously didn't think anybody would notice how stigmatizing their article would be, and thought they could a small lie here and there to exaggerate the story a little bit to gain more attention for this problem. They didn't actually think anybody would object to it, since few people have in the past, and they rarely ever got any attention. In fact, they wrote like how most other organizations often write about trafficking in prostitution; stigmatizing and filled with incorrect information, false statements and purely creating a negative image about prostitution. This is the stigma that we as sexworkers are constantly fighting, coming from organizations who are trying to help victims, but in doing so increasing the stigma and thereby making sexworkers more vulnerable to trafficking.
It should also come as no surprise that the negative image in the media about prostitution was the most often mentioned problem by prostitutesthemselves in researches. And in those same researches it also is shown that sexworkers themselves are least happy about the police of all the contacts they have, which just shows the troubling relationship there is between the police and the sexworker. But that should come as no surprise when you read that the policeman thinks he can judge for us if we're doing this job voluntarily or not. This tunnel vision from police officers (not all, because there are some good ones as well), causes the police to distrust our honest answers when we answer why we choose this profession. And their distrust in us caused sexworkers to distrust the police. For example, I know one girl that was a victim of trafficking, and she strongly doubted to call in the police after exactly these kind of bad experiences. And you guessed it, once she did call the police and they got involved, she got into more trouble than she was before. And than the police keeps wondering why victims don't want to press charges?
Sadly though the police does not want to rectify their incorrect statements about trafficking in prostitution. They'd rather stigmatize an entire profession, rather than giving in to the fact that what they said was wrong and untrue. This partially also shows how deep the believe of the police is in how right they think they are. They really do think they can tell which prostitutes are forced or not, even if this is not the case. And because they believe this, other people from other organizations or even other police districts will believe this as well, causing them to do the same thing. And this has been going on for years already, and this simply needs to stop!