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Book Review: The Black Lens Captures Hidden Reality of Domestic Sex Trade

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Book Review: The Black Lens Captures Hidden Reality of Domestic Sex Trade
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Sex crime victims live on one side of the two-way mirror. All around them is the violation — the hotel attendant who diverts his eyes, the cop getting paid to keep quiet. Women and children in many American communities are exploited, shuffled around, silently observing the ignorance of the community on the other side.

Since 2007, our country has reported 14,588 sex trafficking cases to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.

That’s 14,588 women and children being exploited before our eyes — and that’s just the number that is reported. The human body is a unique and valuable commodity in illicit trade. The lucrative crime pulls in a near $100 billion annually, and unlike drugs, you can sell the same person over and over.

This crime can be committed in our town, in our neighborhoods.

The Black Lens by Christopher Stollar is a reminder of that stark reality. The novel follows Zoey and Camille James, a pair of sisters who live in rural Oregon. The nearest city is Bend, where Aidan, a news photographer for the daily paper, gets roped into the James’ case after a simple record keeping mishap hints toward something much more corrupt.

Whispering Pines RV park is what Zoey, Camille and their mother, Ella call home. Their trailer is kept warm in the dead of winter only by a space heater. Food is rotting on the days-old pile of dishes. The girls’ father, Ricky is hooked on meth and has a history of sexually abusing Zoey. Despite being thrown out by Ella, Ricky still comes around to harass the family.

Zoey plays an important role as Camille’s guardian. Camille has a developmental disability and faces bullying from other students at school. When Camille goes to attend a high school house party, Zoey supervises. But after being pressured to drink, the two wake up to texts with photos of their own naked bodies from a man who would soon become their pimp.

Zoey and Camille’s pimp uses the scandalous photos and death threats against their friends and family to keep them silent and submissive. The blackmail is effective and representative of what happens in these situations in real life.

Stollar demonstrates the importance of technology in the modern sex slave trade. Harassment has means through all forms, and media such as text and Snapchat offer a creative way for sex criminals to exert power over their victims.

The Black Lens is clearly the work of a journalist. It exists to inform and disrupt, and it succeeds. Stollar researched sex trafficking for more than three years to write The Black Lens, conducting interviews with survivors and experts.

There is no attempt to sugar coat the life of abuse lead by those forced into the sex labor industry. But beyond graphic scenarios and adult language, The Black Lens is a mirror for the casual reader.

Porn consumption fuels sex trafficking. Roughly 70 percent of men and 30 percent of women consume pornography about twice a week, and those numbers are growing. Stollar delivers the harsh truth of how this rate of consumption has contributed to the growth of the human trafficking industry.

According to the Black Lens, in interviews with more than 850 women, almost half said they had pornography made of them, and 47 percent said those who bought sex from them requested something they’d seen in porn.

This is a statistic the common Columbusite can actually affect. Abstaining from porn is one answer, but simply doing research on how the porn you consume is created is a big step forward. Seeking out “ethical porn,” where participation is voluntary, safe and well-paid is even better.

For more information, visit www.christopherstollar.com.

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