Women's Funding Network Sex Trafficking Study Is Junk Science

Schapiro Group data wasn't questioned by mainstream media.

Parker was equally fuzzy on how the researchers knew the ages of the people pictured in the control group. "Um ... I'm afraid I do not remember," he says.

You might say that this is important information. The Schapiro Group has been telling the world that it cracked the alchemical code that transforms dumb guesses into hard statistics, and that the magic number is .38. But the leader of the study can't remember the procedure he followed to get that number.

Neither Schapiro nor Parker had any answers when asked whether there was any empirical reason to believe their two critical assumptions: that online photos always represent what the prostitutes actually look like, and that the six handpicked observers conducting the state studies have exactly the same error rate as the initial test batch of 100 random citizens.

Illustration by Jesse Lenz
David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says reporters need to resist the urge to cite bogus studies.
Courtesy of David Finkelhor
David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says reporters need to resist the urge to cite bogus studies.

Details

EDITOR'S NOTE: Village Voice Media, which owns this newspaper, owns the classified site Backpage. In addition to finding used cars, jobs, and couches, readers can also find adult ads on Backpage; for this reason, the Women’s Funding Network and its allies have often called attention to the site, sometimes going so far as to call for its closure.

Certainly we have a stake in this discussion. And we do not object to those who suggest an apparent conflict of interest. We sat quietly and did not respond as the WFN held symposiums across America — from Seattle to Miami — denouncing Backpage. Indeed, we were never asked for a response.

But then we looked at the “science” and the media’s willingness to regurgitate, without question, these incredible statistics. In the interest of a more informed discussion, we decided to write.

For background articles go to:
www.villagevoice.com/sex-trafficking


Wall of Shame: CNN, USA Today, and other media organizations got fooled

Super Bowling for Dollars: The great American game is another chance to foist false research on a gullible media

Beth Schapiro responds: "We stand fully behind our work"

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Instead, Schapiro beat a hasty retreat, saying the study results shouldn't be read as actual incidents of prostitution. "We're the first to tell you, this is not a precise count of the number of girls being prostituted," she says. "We make no bones about that."

Of course, a precise count of the number of girls being prostituted is exactly what the statistics are being presented as in the media, in press releases, and in Schapiro's own study. When this is pointed out, she reverses herself: "Well, yes, these are specific numbers. ... And yes, they are hard numbers, and they are numbers that we stand completely behind."

This is the kind of cognitive whiplash you have to endure if you try to follow Schapiro's reasoning. She insists that the numbers have the weight of fact, and can properly be cited as actual incidents of juvenile prostitution. But when pressed to justify her study's broad and unsupported assumptions, she says it is a work in progress and the numbers are only approximations.

Schapiro's grasp on empirical rigor is such that when asked point-blank to choose between her two contradictory interpretations — estimates or facts — she opts for both. "I would square the circle by saying that you can look at them both ways," she says.

Any reporters who had read the methodology of the Schapiro report would have been left with doubts, and any reporters who followed up would probably have been treated to the same baffling circuit of nonanswers. The fact that the study's findings continue to be rebroadcast by national news outlets suggests that not one of these reporters has bothered to read the study about which they are writing.

"You see this kind of thing a lot, unfortunately," says Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute who writes frequently about statistics. "The kind of skepticism that reporters apply to a statement by a politician just doesn't get applied to studies."

Finkelhor says he understands the pressure on reporters to cite figures when they're writing about juvenile prostitution, but it's something they need to resist, because despite what groups like the Women's Funding Network would have you believe, there simply are no good statistics. "You have to say, 'We don't know. Estimates have been made, but none of them have a real scientific basis to them,'" he says. "All you can say is, 'This is the number the police know about, and we think there are more than that, but we don't know how many more.'"


In her own online photos, the woman who commissioned the Schapiro Group study looks to be in her 50s, with blue eyes, graying hair, and a taste for dangly earrings. Kaffie McCullough first approached the group about conducting a study of juvenile prostitution in Georgia in 2007 when, as director of A Future Not a Past, she realized that having scientific-sounding numbers makes all the difference.

In early 2007, McCullough approached the Georgia Legislature to ask for money for a regional assessment center to track juvenile prostitution. "We had no research, no nothing. The legislators didn't even know about it," she recalls. "We got a little bit. We got about 20 percent of what we asked for."

Later that year, the Schapiro Group made its first counts, and when McCullough returned to the Legislature the following session, she had the study's statistics in hand. "It gave us traction — night and day," she says. "That year, we got all the rest of that money, plus we got a study commission."

McCullough touts the fundraising benefits of the study whenever she can. Since the Schapiro study was picked up for replication nationwide by the Women's Funding Network, she has acted as a sort of technical consultant for state groups as they debate whether to invest in the project. Whenever she's asked, she tells the local groups that the money they spend will come back to them with hefty dividends. "I would say, 'The research costs money, but we've been able to broker — I don't know what it is now, I think it's over $1.3, $1.6 million in funding that we never would have gotten,'" she says.

McCullough initially maintained that she stands by the Schapiro Group study, in part because she says she was told that "it is the same scientific methodology that science has been using for a long time to measure endangered species." But when pressed on whether she really believes that counting Internet photos is reliable, she grants that the sex-work industry isn't exactly the gold standard of truth in advertising. "That's absolutely correct," she says. "That's part of how that business operates: It's a bait-and-switch."

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17 comments
Virility EX Side Effects
Virility EX Side Effects

Human trafficking is becoming serious matter in all over world. Around 2 million kids and females are always been targeted of human trafficking in all over the world. Its really becoming an serious issue which might harm to human life in future.

Arcady0
Arcady0

Faked studies like this do serious harm to efforts to stop actual real human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a serious and major criminal justice issue - but it needs to be examined FACTUALLY so real victims can be identified accurately and money can be allocated to solutions that actually solve rather than just bankroll advocacy groups. The group that put out this faked study out to be investigated for possible fraud and should have their public funds pulled at the least.

Its a 'boy crying wolf' problem now... when you actually find a real crime going on, you'll have to first get past the skeptics who, frankly, now have good reason to be skeptical.

starchild
starchild

Terrific exposé of the lies of Beth Schapiro, Kaffie McCullough and their colleagues that most of the media uncritically swallowed! Professional anti-sex lobbyists like these have been deliberately hyping scare stories about sex trafficking for years now, not only in order to secure funding for their organizations, but to con the public into going along with their agenda to keep sex among consenting adults criminalized, by conflating ordinary prostitution with sex slavery.

This is the same kind of hype that we had to deal with three years ago in the debate over Proposition K, the San Francisco ballot measure to decriminalize prostitution that was defeated amid hysteria by opponents that it would encourage trafficking, lay out a welcome mat for pimps, etc.

In fact, as common sense makes clear to anyone who stops to think about it, decriminalization will make it easier to reduce coercion in the sex trade, since sex workers and clients will be more willing to report actual crimes to authorities if they don't feel it puts them at risk of being persecuted themselves.

Kudos to Village Voice Media for publishing this important story.

-Starchild, Erotic Service Providers Union / Sex Workers Outreach Project

Football Fan
Football Fan

There is a lot of controversy over the numbers of adult woman who are forced sex slaves. The real factual answer is that no one knows. There is hard evidence that the sex slavery/sex trafficking issue continues to report false information and is greatly exaggerated by politicians, the media, and aid groups, feminist and religious organizations that receive funds from the government, The estimate of adult women who become new sex slaves ranges anywhere from 40 million a year to 5,000 per year all of which appear to be much too high. They have no evidence to back up these numbers, and no one questions them about it. Their sources have no sources, and are made up numbers. In fact if some of these numbers are to believed which have either not changed or have been increased each year for the past twenty years, all woman on earth would currently be sex slaves. Yet, very few real forced against their will sex slaves have been found.

It is not easy for criminals to engage in this activity:

Sex trafficking is illegal and the penalties are very severe. It is very difficult to force someone to be a sex slave, they would have to have 24 hour guards posted and be watched 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. Have the threat of violence if they refused, and have no one notice and complain to the authorities or police. They would need to hide from the general public yet still manage to see customers from the general public and not have the customers turn the traffickers in to the police. They would need to provide them with medical care, food, shelter, and have all their basic needs met. They would need to have the sex slaves put on a fake front that they enjoyed what they were doing, act flirtatious and do their job well. They would have to deal with the authorities looking for the missing women, and hide any money they may make, since it comes from illegal activity. They must do all of this while constantly trying to prevent the sex slaves from escaping and reporting them to the police. They would need to prevent the general public from reporting them into the police.

This is extremely difficult to do, which makes this activity rare. These criminals would be breaking dozens of major laws not just one. Kidnapping itself is a serious crime. There are many laws against sex trafficking, sex slavery, kidnapping, sex abuse, rape, sexual harassment etc. If someone is behind it, they will be breaking many serious laws, be in big trouble, and will go to jail for many long years. While there are some women who may be true victims. And it is possible for this to happen in rare situations. This is a small rare group of people and that the numbers and scale of this crime is exaggerated. The very nature of someone pulling off a kidnapping and forced sex for profit appears to be very difficult. Since it would be difficult this makes this crime rare. Not impossible, but extremely rare. And do you really think that millions of people are lining up to make a career out of being a illegal violent sex slave kidnapping pimp?

A key point is that on the sidelines the adult prostitutes themselves are not being listened to. They oppose laws against prostitution. But no one wants to listen to the prostitutes themselves. Only to the self appointed experts that make up numbers and stories many of which have never met a real forced sex slave or if they did it was only a few. The media and government never ask the prostitutes themselves what would help them in terms of laws.

Many women in the sex business are independent workers. They don’t have a pimp.They work for themselves, advertise themselves, and keep all the money for themselves. No one forces them, because there isn’t anyone to force them. They go out and find their own customers, set their own prices, and arrange everything by themselves. Sometimes they may employ others to help them, but these are not pimps. If for example, she hires an Internet web design company to make a website for her, does that make the web design company a pimp? If she pays a phone company for a phone to do business, does this make the phone company a pimp? If she puts an ad in the paper, does this make the editor a pimp? If she puts the money she makes into a bank account does this make the bank a pimp?

A lot of anti prostitution groups would say yes. Everyone and everybody is a pimp.

These groups make up lies, and false statistics that no one bothers to check. A big reason they do this is because it provides high paying jobs for them. They get big donations, and grants from the government, charity, churches, etc. to have these groups, and pay these high salaries of the anti prostitution workers.According to the media hype There was supposed to be hundreds of thousands of under age child sex slaves kidnapped and forced to have sex with super bowl fans. At the Dallas Super Bowl 2011.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THEM?????

WHERE ARE THE THOUSANDS OF SUPER BOWL KIDNAPPED FORCED CHILD SEX SLAVES???????

Politicians, women's groups, police and child advocates were predicting that up to 100,000 hookers would be shipped into Dallas for the Super Bowl.

It was all a big lie told by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, government officials, and various anti-prostitution groups: Traffick911, Not for Sale, Change-org, Polaris Project, and the Dallas Women’s Foundation, which are anti-prostitution groups that tell lies in order to get grant money from the government and charities to pay their high salaries, and get huge amounts of money into their organizations. As proved in the links below:

Top FBI agent in Dallas (Robert Casey Jr.) sees no evidence of expected spike in child sex trafficking:

“Among those preparations was an initiative to prevent an expected rise in sex trafficking and child prostitution surrounding the Super Bowl. But Robert Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said he saw no evidence that the increase would happen, nor that it did.“In my opinion, the Super Bowl does not create a spike in those crimes,” he said. “The discussion gets very vague and general. People mixed up child prostitution with the term human trafficking, which are different things, and then there is just plain old prostitution.”

http://www.dallasnews.com/spor...

This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

Brian McCarthy isn't happy. He's a spokesman for the NFL. Every year he's forced to hear why his customers are adulterers and child molesters. Brian McCarthy says the sport/super bowl sex slave story is a urban legend, with no truth at all.

These anti-prostitution groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies.

Here are some good links about this:

http://sextraffickingtruths.bl...

http://bebopper76.wordpress.co...

Dallas TV News show about super bowl sex slave myth:

http://www.wfaa.com/sports/foo...

Dallas Newspaper article:

http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

Washington post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

News night BBC video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Guardian newspaper:http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2...

Nick Davies - About Truth in the Media:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

ShelomithStow
ShelomithStow

Having a rational, reasonable, fact- based discussion on any aspect of sex offenders is difficult at best. Having such a discussion when some of those involved do not bother to find out the facts but instead substitute their own opinions ups the difficulty level to very high. Factor in those who claim to know the facts, can quote statistics with the best of us, but in reality are virtually inventing those facts and statistics out of their own preconceived biases. The chance of having anything even remotely resembling a meaningful conversation on the subject has now entered the realm of the totally impossible.Shame on Deborah Richardson and all others of her ilk.

Klejdys
Klejdys

As James Kilpatrick one said (I paraphrase), it would be a great help to the journalism profession if all reporters were forced to study statistics.

Seeing through how this group snowed not only the media, but our idiot Congress folks who see what they want to see without regard for what the real truth is a total joke (Iraq War, anyone?). The Women's Funding Network (WFN) and their related entities out to be ashamed of themselves for perverting the truth like this. Free Craigslist!

isitmedicine
isitmedicine

Media readers need to demand links to primary sources whenever stats like these are quoted. Otherwise you can pretty much assume they're dodgy or plain made-up. Interesting article from UK champion against shitty science, Ben Goldacre: http://www.badscience.net/2011...

r6669
r6669

Their claims of juvenile prostitution and trafficking are grossly exaggerated. Figures with a group like that. I would guess the actual figure would be closer to less than 1%. Young is what sells. Ad makers will use fake (borrowed) pictures, photoshopped pictures and old pictures and claim that you would be seeing. Very difficult to guess actual age from a picture. To get an accurate study, you have to go out into the "field" and actually meet the women. And not women who show up in a shelter or get picked up by the police. That will only give you a very small subset. You have to call them up (random sample) and actually see them. Very slow and expensive process. But that is the only way you can come up with believable numbers. I would guess trafficking is a relatively small problem in the USA as is juvenile prostitution. If police come across an actual case of trafficking, the culprits should be prosecuted. Otherwise, the police should be spending their time on "real" crime. Like rape, burglary, assault and murder.

Rumky
Rumky

It's very difficult for police to just "come across" juvenile prostitution and human trafficking given that both crimes are underground. Moreover, you say police should spend their time on "real" crime, like rape. Do you really fail to see the connection between rape and juvenile prostitution/human trafficking? Your post indicates that you are as guilty of skewing the issue as those you condemn.

SFiscan
SFiscan

So you're critical of unscientific studies but then just pull a figure like 1% out of the air and decide to go with that? As if junk science isn't bad enough, you think basing your beliefs on a *guess* makes more sense? Incredible.

Trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the U.S. and is tied for third as the largest (1. Drugs, 3. Weapons, 3. Human trafficking), according to the Department of Justice. Just because one group fudged their findings doesn't mean it's not a serious issue. I realize Americans live in this fantasy world where all sex workers are high-class hookers who are having sex for money because they want to, but that's not the reality for many of them. How many prostitutes do you know from good homes with good educations and good job prospects? Maybe in a perfect world, the sex trade should be legal. But this is not a perfect world with financial and social equality, and it's time everybody quit deluding themselves about the nature of the problem.

Strangedays
Strangedays

Rather than being ashamed of finding the truth because there is a stake in it, other media should be ashamed for parroting false truth for selfish ratings interests. The media is too often nothing more than trolls out for a reaction, truth be damned.

____
____

Why does this surprise anyone? As my high school math teacher once told us that there are: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics. That the people coming out with the numbers even with accurate data can skew them anyway they want let alone bogus stacked created numbers. These bums should be hauled back and charge with perjury and congress members publicaly shamed for believing such cockamamie numbers and the individuals that ask these bozos be barred from doing so in the future.

SOIssues
SOIssues

People have been known to fudge "statistics" for many years. It's a fact. And I wonder, when it comes to sex offender statistics, is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other organizations fudging the numbers? John Walsh has been known for pulling "statistics" out of thin air.

http://sexoffenderissues.blogs...

anyfreeman
anyfreeman

Facts are pesky critters, they are wild and don't like to cooperate. That's why we've invented "FauxFacts" (pronounced "FOX") and dedicated a crack team to create simulated and fact like items in our PR labs.

Libertybelle
Libertybelle

How does lying help women and children who are being victimized?As much as we (society) want to help individuals who lives are being destroyed by prostitution and slavery, it is a terrible misstep by those we trust (women's funding network and others) who create fake statistics to further their cause. Because now we wonder, who we can trust, if they are lying about their statistics and facts, then we have to ask ourselves, what else are they lying about?Frankly, as someone who heard the stories and believed the numbers, this makes me feel mad and foolish, and I believe that it only victimizes the women and children, again.

h. brown
h. brown

Joe O'Donoghue,

always says: "Figures don't lie but liars can figure.". Until the last 10 or 15 years no reputable news outlet would publish a poll without including the instrument that yielded the numbers. Now? They publish the numbers that favor their chosen political candidates or the issues embraced by their biggest advertisers. I'd submit that the worst local polling firm is David Binder Inc. (or, is it LLC?). He could design a poll whose results would show that the most respected politician in San Francisco is actually __________. Give him the money and you can fill in any name you like. He'll give you the numbers to back it up. Scientifically.

Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

Go Giants!

h.

 
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