Testifying for your pimp

This piece in the Times about sex workers who testified on behalf of their pimps in a sex trafficking case is… interesting. It touches on too many complex issues for me to do it justice in a blog post without having read the trial transcript or knowing much of the background, but a few thoughts:

-Vincent George Sr. and Vincent George Jr. sound like abusive, manipulative, awful people.

-“Sex trafficking” has perhaps been defined so broadly that it’s starting to lose meaning. There needs to be a way to prosecute abusive treatment of sex workers without simply expanding the sex trafficking framework to include every form of sex work.

-Yes, women have agency. But women in abusive relationships often defend their abusers, either refusing to testify against them or even supporting them. I dislike the framing of the women’s testimony on behalf of the Georges “may actually be evidence of how effective the pimps were in manipulating the women,” because the essential take-away there is that there’s no way for the women to not be manipulated; whatever they say is good for the prosecution. At the same time, it is a reality that emotional and psychological manipulation in abusive relationships exists and should be addressed.

-I’m not sure the legal system has the tools to holistically deal with the complex issues presented in cases like this one. We can’t jam every real story into the victim / victimizer framework.