Cryptic anti-sex-trafficking billboard sign in DC Metro station
August 26, 2014 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone explain this sign that I've seen in at least one DC Metro station?

Shared Hope International is the name of the organization that made the ad. The first link below is a cellphone picture (not mine) and it's the only legible picture I could find. There's actually at least two other variations of the ad, which I've linked to below but you can't really read them. If someone could at least explain the first one that'd be awesome. I think, and I could be wrong, that the ad is describing different (progressively more dire?) points in the life of someone who's been sold into prostitution, but the details of the points are obscure to me.

link 1

link 2

link 3

link 4
posted by early one morning to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Firstly, the links all work for me.

Secondly, you know you can hit Ctrl and the plus key (or Command and the plus key on a Mac) and the pictures will zoom in, right? I can read all of them that way, though at some point the added zoom benefit gets canceled out by pixelation but I think it'll still help enough so you can read them all.
posted by vegartanipla at 4:19 PM on August 26, 2014

I don't think they're meant to suggest gradations or a particular trajectory; I just think it's meant to suggest that once you fall into being exploited further exploitation is never far away. In other words, no matter which of those stops the exploited child starts at, the next stop is just down the line, in either direction.

It occurs to me that because the red line away from the Series of Unfortunate Events Line is the same color as the Shared Hope logo that it might be meant to represent the possibility of escape? (Help this child step off the line of misery and onto the line of hope--that kind of thing).
posted by yoink at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Hi folks, I fixed the links, carry on.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2014

Sounds like they're just describing different "customers" of a child prostitute and quirks they had (he called me a name, didn't have enough money, etc. etc.).

The ad is made to look like stops on a metro map probably to get you to pay attention to it in a metro station and also to relate back to the idea of trafficking/travel.
posted by Kimmalah at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: oh and you're going to have to zoom in on the pictures, so if anyone is not sure how to do that, you do it by holding ctrl while rolling the mouse's scroll wheel up and down, or by holding ctrl while hitting + or - on the keyboard.
posted by early one morning at 4:21 PM on August 26, 2014

it's trying to say that it's happening all around you and johns are all different kinds of men.
posted by nadawi at 4:22 PM on August 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

I've seen them in the stations. The only part I ever seem to catch before exiting is the "he held my head" one and then I want to vomit and don't investigate further. It looks like the metro map bc it's in the metro. I don't think there's a larger message to that part but like I said, i run from it when I see it.
posted by atomicstone at 4:58 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Such children are stuck on a trajectory out of their control. This trajectory includes both the horrifyingly awful and the eerily normal. Child prostitutes exist not only because of your stereotypical "stranger danger" types, but also because of seemingly normal people who hold respectable positions in society. Additionally, a caption like "lets me watch TV" highlights not only the depravity of all the other entries, but also how pathetic such a tiny sliver of normalcy is.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:11 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

The descriptions just read like the shorthand a prostituted child would use to describe her various rapists. "There was the guy who let me watch tv, the guy who took off his wedding ring..." etc. The subway analogy is, I think, basically a way of emphasizing that these kids are stuck on a track that's hard to escape, and the text on that first ad emphasizes that her rapists are so common as to be at every single subway stop.
posted by jaguar at 5:54 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Of the 12 men who abuse the prostituted child in the context of the billboard, two are identified by profession: "German businessman" and "Evironmental lobbyist."

'German businessman' to avoid besmirching the morally superior American variety, perhaps? And 'Environmental lobbyist' so as not to cast aspersions on the good and faithful other sorts?

This smacks of a hidden agenda, and when I looked around a little for more information about Shared Hope, the sponsor, this is what I found:
I and others have often written about the origin of “sex trafficking” mythology in evangelical Christian theology, and many of the largest “anti-trafficking” NGOs have strong ties to anti-abortion and anti-gay groups. Shared Hope International is one of those organizations, and its founder Linda Smith has been involved in anti-sex causes for three decades. Since they are based in Washington state I asked Portland, Oregon-based activist Carol Fenton to give us a short introduction to Smith and Shared Hope…

Linda Smith boldly proclaims that the same beliefs that guide her anti-abortion and anti-gay politics are the same values that pilot her domestic minor sex trafficking efforts. “I started as a pro-life activist,” she says; “The children I serve today are children of God, labeled, stripped of justice, denied life in many cases…[I use] many of the same arguments that I used fighting for the unborn for many years.” ...
I recognize Carol Fenton as an advocate for sex workers, but not Maggie McNeill, the author of the italicized portion of the excerpt I quote; Linda Smith is probably the most extreme right wing Republican Washington state sent to Congress during the 20th century.
posted by jamjam at 6:19 PM on August 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

It's a snapshot or "day in the life of" a prostituted child using a public transport-type map graphic to help tell the story.
posted by SpecialSpaghettiBowl at 7:57 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Linda Smith wasn't even the most conservative Republican in Congress at that point, the linked cfpdx blog has an obvious decriminalization bias and argues explicitly that there's too much focus on anti-trafficking work, and anti-choice people are allowed to want to support children -- in fact, I think every single pro-choice person I know would love it if there was more of a focus on making sure all children had high quality of life. Linda Smith's biography describes someone who does far-reaching work to help vulnerable kids, and it's ridiculous to hint at some conspiracy theory about these ads. They are designed to raise awareness of human sex trafficking, and that's it.
posted by jaguar at 8:19 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

As for "environmental lobbyist" being some sort of secret pro-lobbyist code, Linda Smith was lauded in the very left-wing Mother Jones for her major stance against lobbying and PACs.
posted by jaguar at 8:22 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: One comment deleted. This is getting kind of far afield into speculation, whereas the OP has only asked about what's going on in the poster itself.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:45 PM on August 26, 2014

The map design lures people who were simply looking for a subway stop map and gives them a shock when they read the "subway stops", thus imprinting this ad in their brains.
posted by serena15221 at 10:09 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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