“Sex trafficking and the distractions caused by ‘labeling’ the problem”

By Marian Hatcher


Lately, I feel like I am in the cat bird seat. Being in survivor leadership and working for law enforcement, I have a unique view of efforts to effectively impact human trafficking. Recently the best way to describe what I see is that we have become small and large pockets in “Groupthink” mode.


Irving Lester Janis (May 26, 1918 – November 15, 1990) was a research psychologist at Yale University and a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley most famous for his theory of “groupthink” which described the systematic errors made by groups when making collective decisions.


Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people when the desire for harmony overrides the ability of the group to make rational decisions. It can be caused by group cohesiveness, structural faults within teams, and certain situational contexts and can negatively affect group decision making processes when members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus by suppressing dissenting viewpoints.


We struggle so hard in this movement and efforts to move forward in partnerships that we feel we must name, rename or find a new term. We have protests, meetings, conferences and conference calls to discuss whether we agree on terms; abolitionist, advocate or activist, sex trafficker, pimp or manager, prostitute, prostituted individual, sex trafficking victim, commercially sexually exploited individual, purchaser or buyer and God forbid we continue using the term “John”!!!


Advocates, Survivor Leaders, Government leaders and NGO’s are working diligently to address the problem and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Let’s not however lose sight of the importance of the individual voice and dissenting opinions. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in his historic dissenting opinion, Abrams v. United States (1919), stated ….”Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death,”…


Differing in language, terminology or branding of this human rights violation should not prevent critical thinking and collaboration. It should instead force conversation and albeit an odd and difficult concept, reinforce listening, listening to the dissenting opinion, the less attractive idea, and those thoughts that cause us to squirm in our seats.


So indeed the desire for harmony has overridden the ability for rational decision in modern day slavery efforts. We must avoid at all costs being overly concerned about those who disagree with us. For it is in that very disagreement that history will be made.


Marian Hatcher has been with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) for 10 years. Recently promoted to Project Manager for the Sheriff’s Women’s Justice Programs, she is also the Human Trafficking Coordinator and member of the Human Trafficking Response Team. She coordinates several of CCSO’s anti-trafficking efforts such as the “National Day of Johns Arrests,” a nationwide effort with more than 59 participating law enforcement agencies (including the FBI) targeting the buyers of sex as the driving force of sex trafficking and prostitution. As a national expert on combating the demand for commercial sex, she has testified before the Illinois and Colorado legislatures, has been featured in the OWN documentary Prostitution: Leaving the Life which focused on her work as a Survivor Advocate and most recently the Ink 180 Documentary. She has spoken at several conferences nationwide and consulted on training projects for Demand Abolition and Shared Hope Internationals Gang TRAP series. Marian is also a member of national survivor led organizations, the Survivor Leadership institute as well as S.P.A.C.E International; SPACE stands for ‘Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment’, an International forum for survivor advocacy. In December 2013, the FBI awarded her for outstanding assistance with their investigative efforts. In April 2014 DePaul University awarded her the Helen F. McGillicuddy Award for her work in the Advancement of Women and Gender Rights. Most recently she is a 2014 recipient of Shared Hope International’s Path Breaker Award, presented to individuals who have dedicated themselves to tackling the demand that drives domestic minor sex trafficking. The recipients represent the multi-pronged approach required to combat demand: prevention, restoration and justice. In July 2014 her article “Ten Years and Counting” was published in Police Chief Magazine as a companion article to a piece written by her employer Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, both focused on human trafficking. Ms. Hatcher received her BS from Loyola University in 1985 concentrating on Finance. Her previous experience includes working at three major corporations.

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