A recent headline in The Oregonian read

Story of Pornland is a myth

After carefully reading the article, which was headlining the paper a day before the Northwest Coalition Against Trafficking conference, I found it rather odd that the paper would choose such a headline for the paper considering the amount of legalized commercial sex businesses we have here.

In the headline nation in which we live, one could take one look at that headline and be left saying.. I told you so or I guess that’s that.

In this, what a crying shame. Has anyone else wondered out loud lately of what ever happened to Portland?

For me, the disturbing name of Pornland being hurled upon us starts way before the issue of trafficking, but with the culture that is cultivated here that would easily open the door for this.

So, I did a little research.. (much of which I did by simply using the search tools on the oregonlive site, itself.)

To put this “myth” into perspective, a metropolis the size of Seattle has four strip clubs within city limits, and Dallas, another trafficking hot spot, has three–but our city, Portland, has more than 50 all-nude strip clubs within city limits. One directory lists 40 erotic dance clubs, 47 all-nude strip clubs, 35 adult businesses and 21 lingerie modeling shops. With more than 100 strip clubs and massage parlors, Portland is “per capita, the largest legal commercial sex industry in the nation – bigger than even Vegas.”

So, I ask again… Portland is NOT Pornland?

In a short video to give a summary of the story, the writer basically says that because there are not collected data or stats for this issue both locally and nationally that somehow the myth is not true?

And because of this, the reputation we have for being Pornland is undeserved?

In fact, in the article, the author even asks… “So how did Portland get a reputation it doesn’t deserve?

What? Have you taken a moment to walk around different parts of the city? Have you taken the time to meet with and discuss the many people who are in the fight locally and can cite story after story of how bad it really is?

Just read the stats listed above and couple that with Oregon’s relatively lax laws, access to both water and concrete biways, I5 co-oridor, and on and on. We are ripe for this type of activity.

Playing off the name Pornland from the short film report by Dan Rather is nothing more than a cheap shot towards every last person who was interviewed in that piece and those who have come together locally to address this and other human rights issues within our community that are a direct impact from our local sex industry.

However, I will be quick to note that the many quotes stating Portland as the #2 hub in the nation often time are misquotes from this line from the Rather article…

In a recent nationwide sting by Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, Portland ranked second in the country for the number of rescued child prostitutes.

We must be more careful before we take words and run with them, lest we get caught up in a really bad game of telephone. That goes also for the Pornland is a myth headline. But, I digress.

Quite frankly, I have not historically been a Dan Rather fan. However, I found this to be a very well crafted piece on what is happening here in Portland. I am not alone.

Matter of fact, at a recent Washington County open forum on trafficking held at St. Vincent’s Hospital, a full house sat and watched the entire film before taking part in a forum with many folks on the front lines of this fight on the local level.

It seems that The Oregonian, too, needs to make up their mind… of all the articles they have posted on trafficking these past few years, this one warrants a front page headline? It seems like to me and many others as a very irresponsible choice of words and timing.

Recent stories in The Oregonian were as recent as this one from 1/01/11…

Sex trafficking: Portland must step up efforts to prevent exploitation

Or this one from a year ago… (from the same author of the current headline.)

Human trafficking industry thrives in Portland metro area

What changed in the past year for you?

Again, for me… it’s just not okay for this to happen in my community…. period. It doesn’t take a stat or poll for me to want to engage the fight. This is a wrong issue, not a right or wrong one.

Sgt. Mike Geiger, in charge of the bureau’s sex crimes unit, isn’t sure that Portland is the No. 2 city in the country for teenage sexual trafficking, as has been claimed. “I’m not even sure that’s the issue,” he says.”Whether we’re No. 1 or No. 4 or No. 15, the question is: Do we have a problem? And the answer is that we absolutely do.” In this… I agree.

Here is a video synopsis of the recent Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk that was not only held in Portland, but 37 other cities, as well this past October.

At about the 1:46 mark, you will hear from survivor, Jessica Richardson, Sen. Ron Wyden, Commissioner Diane McKeel, and Sgt. Doug Justus on the subject of trafficking in Portland…

Over the past year, I have been grateful for the opportunity to get to know survivor/conqueror, Jessica Richardson. In this, and with the reporting of Alexis Del Cid from KOIN TV, here is an informative report from a year ago on trafficking in Portland…

Again, what’s changed?

Domestically, there is no doubt that this story is getting a lot of media attention. In following various daily stories on trafficking via The Human Trafficking Daily, which follows 80+ organizations fighting trafficking feed, more and more of it is beginning to tip into the mainstream with regards to everyday people starting to view the problem as not just one that happens over there, but happens over here.

Over the past 2-3 years, many new organizations have sprung up domestically to both raise awareness as well as fight this tragic problem. In this, no doubt there is need for sound dialogue and careful language to be used when igniting people to engage the fight to stop trafficking.

Often times, when we first hear that this is happening in our own backyard, the initial reaction for most people is to immediately go 0-60 mph with our emotions and want to do something immediately.

While being called to action is good. It is much more wise to take sound action. In this, we must first seek to educate people what really is going on behind the headlines of the day or what the stats say or not say.

From there, let’s take a look at all the various entry points into this discussion with regards to making a difference within this issue.

With issues such as trafficking, it is so complex.

There are the legislative efforts to the needs for shelter beds. With that, there are also the issues of sound post rescue counseling to even begin to help a victim with sustainable re-acclimation after what in many cases is years of traumatic abuse where the victim is literally broken.

There are also the efforts to stop the demand by going after the predators as well as one angle that rarely gets discussed and that is with the power of mentoring as a preventative strategy for both the predator or prostitute at a young age that may be more susceptible to ending up within the patterns that were placed before them perhaps even by their own lineage.

Regardless if one has been lured or “decides” to want this lifestyle, often times people get caught up in this question, as well.

As if anyone at a young age says that they want to be sold 15 times per day having sex with strangers and repeat customers making a whole lot of money for someone else and then being threatened with their life when they want out.


Though I find some sound points in the story, I can’t look past the comparisons with Seattle. For one, the Seattle area has how many more people living in it. For Portland, it will always be a per-capita question for me? This also can play out with more strict laws as well as more resources applied to the focus in Seattle/Washington versus Portland/Oregon.

While I understand your point, please add a little more balanced context to it next time.

While I know that the author of this story too knows that trafficking is wrong, I would caution the author next time to backup the juicy headline with a balanced and thorough report. Maybe even personalize it by discussing what has changed since she reported on this issue a year prior.

What we need is good responsible reporting and too often, the headline will become too much of the focus like with this issue, where the “ranking” became  the focus and instead not that we have some serious societal issues happening here that sadly… trafficking is part of the story and needs to be addressed.

I really liked this quote from the article…

Esther Nelson, case manager for exploited youths at the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Portland, said where the city ranks is a good question but shouldn’t be the focus. Nelson’s organization received some of the grant money Multnomah County won.

“I don’t think any city that is looking can’t say they have a problem,” Nelson said. “But this is a problem (here). It could be anyone’s daughter.”

What needs to be the focus is those who are affected. No matter how they got there, they all have a story. What needs to be the focus as well, is the culture we have created here that makes this way too possible. In this, there is a holistic approach that needs to be seen.

That being said, myth or not… don’t we all have a role to play? Isn’t my community, our community, too?

Whether we like it or not… drive around the city sometime… sadly, in many places in and around the city and its suburbs, we are Pornland.

Sadly, there is much more going on than we want to admit.

No fear mongering here, just the facts.

So, let’s stop seeking to create headlines and instead seek to create opportunities for dialogue.

For certain, there were some valid points in the article, but sadly… they were all lost in a bad choice of words that froze the perception of the article… and the issue.

Ironically, the very next day after the “myth” story was headlined, tucked into the paper was this story…

For children in sex trade, a way out is tough to find

But I guess that is not a sexy enough headline. I guess that is why my headline is… Dear Pornland, The Oregonian is a myth. Now that’s a sexy headline if I may say so myself.

Please feel free to post a comment, share on Facebook, or retweet. Thanks.

For a great resource on trafficking, please check out my friends at Oregonians Against Human Trafficking website.


5 responses »

  1. Ron Ares says:

    Agreed. The O can’t have it both ways….salacious headlines or ‘investigative’ reporting. Choose a side. It was as if they got some payola from the Visitor’s association to refute the problem because no one keeps hard stats. And, no, it doesn’t make me feel any better that Seattle might be the hub of trafficking in the NW, even if it’s true.

  2. Will says:

    Saying that there isn’t a problem because they don’t keep stats is like saying lets not keep track of drunk driving incidence then we can say Oregon doesn’t have a drunk driver problem…just because you don’t keep stats doesn’t mean it’s not happening…get with the program O and quit trying to make Pornland & Gamorrah look like the Garden of Eden….IT WON’T WORK!

  3. Paul Austin says:

    We just moved to Oregon about 5 years ago from California. Not to run away from a crazy environment, but because Oregon has always appealed to us as being green and simply a really nice state to raise our kids. I can totally understand why the Oregonian is trying to downplay the problem in Portland. It could turn tourists off, potential homebuyers in the area, just the general consensus of a state that has a pretty darn good rep in the U.S. But the above poster is right, it doesn’t matter if we’re #1 or #20 in ranking…how many children does it take to sit up and take notice that there’s a problem and just fight to fix it. Did you know that Oregon is considered one of the “dirty dozen” states that haven’t addressed a bill to prosecute johns and pimps? (Hopefully that will be taken care of at Legislature this next month.)

    Lets just get on the bandwagon here and deal with this. Save our children and quit burying our heads in the sand because no matter where you live, it could touch you personally some day if we don’t put an end to it now.

    Also, check out 20/20 this Friday. There’s going to be a special on teenage runaways. Portland is not going to like the fact that 32% of them end up right here. It’s what helps make Portland the hot spot for human trafficking.

  4. bebopper76 says:

    There is a lot of controversy over the topics of sex trafficking, sex slavery, human trafficking and forced prostitution. Regarding what the definition is, the research methods used to find statistics, what the definition of a victim is, the number of child and adult victims involved, forced vs. unforced sex, how the actual prostitutes themselves feel about it, and legal vs. illegal prostitution.
    There is a growing number of well respected researchers, journalists, scientists, professors, that have concluded in their research that the sex trafficking, sex slavery concept is based on emotion, morals, and monetary funding rather than facts, evidence and proof. They state that very few kidnapped, forced against their will, physically abused, raped sex slave prostitutes for profit have been found throughout the world. Their research concludes that women who enter into this type of work do so of their own free will. They also state that there are many anti-prostitution groups who simply do not like the idea of consensual adult prostitution and have distorted the facts in order to push their agenda and receive funding and money into their organizations in the form of donations, grants and to change the laws about prostitution. They state that these anti-prostitution groups use made up child sex trafficking statistics which they have no proof or evidence of in order to gain public acceptance for their cause.

    Here are links about some these reports:



  5. bebopper76 says:

    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.

    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.




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