Hawaii sex workers say Honolulu police officers are customers, study says
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser she questioned the methodology of the study and the fact that only 22 subjects were interviewed.
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A controversial study
on sex trafficking presented Wednesday to the Honolulu Police Commission quotes sex workers who allege
police officers ask for sex in exchange for looking the other way.
After the presentation, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser she questioned the methodology of the study and the fact that only 22 subjects were interviewed. She also noted
that it is unclear when and how many of those subjects implicated police.
Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, presented the study, which she said is based upon in-depth interviews conducted by clinical social workers of
22 sex workers about their entire lives and work.
Jabola-Carolus, who was also one of the authors of the study, defended it, saying, “The study is qualitative. A sample of 22 is considered large for a
qualitative study in academic settings.”
“This is not anecdotal,” she said. “This is empirical and quality data … produced by a state agency.”
She said nearly half the girls reported some level
of corruption by police, whether it was buying sex on their off-hours, to coercing them, to more extreme behavior.
“I do not trust cops,” one said. “They were the customers.”
Another sex-trafficking survivor quoted from the study, said, “It’s really easy to sell sex in Hawaii, and it’s like they don’t care because cops date. COPS DATE…the one cop had his freaking gun, his badge and his hat sitting right there. And he’s like, let’s go.”
“It is all the time. Prosecutors too. So the same people, the same f—-g people who are charging you for doing the s—t you get into trouble for doing are the same people who are going to turn around and pay that money.”
Jabola-Carolus said, “This warrants serious investigation,” but added that she is ethically bound not to reveal the identities of the subjects and the accused
The study also revealed the average age of a sex-trafficking victim when first trafficked is 14.7; rape or gang rape occurred; and victims were taken to the mainland.
The traffickers were most often a boyfriend (72.2 percent) or a drug dealer (16.6 percent). Strangers made up 5.5 percent of traffickers.
Honolulu Police Commissioner Karen Chung said, “I’m sad, and I’m stunned. Who can act on the recommendations?”
She noted two things: “Corruption and gaps of services. Seems like police are cited so many times. What do we do about this? It’s like a wake-up call.”
After the presentation, Ballard told the Star-Advertiser she was appalled that Jabola-Carolus revealed the information in a public forum rather than going to police first.
“We need people to come forward and let us know if our officers are out there doing it,” the chief said.
She said if the Honolulu Police Department is informed, “we will investigate fully.”
Ballard said she will remind officers, “If you’re doing it you better stop. If you know somebody doing it, tell them to stop.”
Jabola-Carolus said, “There are no mandated statewide training of law
enforcement and criminal justice personnel. This is sexualized police brutality. Story after story after story told to social workers.”
The first part of the study released last year has had its critics, including Meda Chesney-Lind, professor of women’s studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Nandita Sharma, associate professor of sociology at UH Manoa.
In an op-ed piece they co-authored, which ran Oct. 18 in the Star-Advertiser, they said that “Sex Trafficking in Hawaii Part 1: Exploring Online Sex Buyers” had problems with its methodology, using highly problematic methods that made no sense to conclude that an astronomical number
of men on Oahu and Hawaii island seek sex online.
“The report’s readers
are left with the assumption that advertisements for
sex work creates ‘victims
of sex trafficking.’”