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Book Reviews- Summer 2017

Section Editor: Venessa Garcia

Book Review One:

Musto, Jennifer. 2016. Control and Protect: Collaboration, Carceral Protection, and Domestic Sex Trafficking in the United States. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Reviewed by Cheng, Xiaolin, Graduate Student, Washington University in St. Louis.

Overall, this book highlights the philosophy and practice of “carceral protectionism” as seen in responses to domestic sex trafficking in the United States. Musto coined this term to describe the punitive and protective role and effect of the carceral state. In short, this is an inevitable outcome of the enmeshment of state and non-state actors as the state law enforcement arm continues to play an increasingly important carceral role. Ironically, victim centered approaches that aim to protect victims (sometimes from themselves) often take the “arrest to assist” approach, where the punitive means is thought to justify the protective ends. Part of carceral protectionism also involves a strong use of surveillance and reliance on technology. This approach appears to be rampant, though it has resulted in unintended harms. Simultaneously, less punitive alternative approaches lack supportive services (e.g. emergency secure shelters to house victims at any time of the day), though Musto does discuss several possible alternatives at the end of her book. The overall method of the book relies on interviews and observation.

Chapter 1 describes the uneasy enmeshment of nonstate and state actors via several narratives from law enforcement, service providers, and survivors. Although earlier research suggests tensions between state and non-state actors (due to punitive approaches of the state, which is in stark contrast with the more restorative approach of the non-state actors), Musto observed support and collaboration between the state and non-state actors. Yet, not all collaborative efforts are without tensions. For example, Musto described an incident whereby a nonprofit partner gave legal advice to a victim, which in the law enforcement officer’s opinion, was subverting of the legal process. Nonetheless, overall these actors have found and navigated meaningful and mutually beneficial collaborative relationships that can be informal and formal. The carceral approach is no longer viewed as punitive per se and takes on a paternalistic tone when victims of sex trafficking are viewed as exploited to the extent that he/she fails to see himself/herself as a victim. State control is used as a type of punitive protection, arguably to help victims gain access to needed social service interventions. As a result, victims are treated as “victim-offenders” instead.

In investigating victim-offenders, the honoring of privacy becomes secondary. Chapter 2 highlights the surveillance that the state uses on foot and via technology. Online platforms and evidence stored on phones are accessed by officers to establish an individual’s identity as a victim. This lack of privacy disempowers people experiencing sex trafficking further, as they are robbed of their sense of agency. Musto also describes how this practice may be in contention with the Fourth Amendment. The sense of agency (e.g., control over one’s outcomes, and decision making in the prosecution process) could be even further jeopardized as there is a growing reliance on digital and corroborative evidence, as opposed to reliance on victims as witnesses. An example highlighted in Chapter 3 includes data mining from third party sources to identify victims through predictive analytics. Anti-trafficking is likened to anti-terrorism efforts, giving rise to a form of militarized humanitarianism, justifying surveillance.

In Chapter 4, Musto notes that in treating the victims more like ‘victim-offenders,’ law enforcers often “switch up,” once they establish that the offender is a “victim-offender.” Even though victims are not treated as criminals per se, there seems to exist a detention-to-protection pathway, a form of punitive protection, which appears not to be color blind in practice. When viewed as a type of violence from the state, the carceral approach becomes a continuation of violence inflicted on these youths as they have often faced intersectional violence. Therefore, alternative systems of safety nets that do not include punishment is arguably best in providing alternative interventions (e.g. Dreams and Destiny shelter). Without such alternatives, youth experiencing sex trafficking may face further victimization within systems of law enforcement. Musto highlighted an example, L, who was running away from an abusive home environment, and was charged with trading sex for survival, and then was further punished by being detained. Nonetheless, many respondents still hold on to the perspective that the first step to protection is arrest.

Although there seems to be a benevolent reason for a carceral approach, there are long lasting unintended consequences, as described in Chapter 5. With the carceral approach, victims are left with records that may or may not be fully expunged. Victims often require help to expunge these records and may not be able to afford the required help. In the meantime, housing and employment continues to be challenging for them, as a record would prove to be detrimental to their efforts in securing either. Musto highlights narratives that victims therefore continue to live in fear and are required to have tenacity in finding a solution, which places them in a vulnerable position.

Overall, this book highlights the rationale and rise of the carceral protectionist approach. In spite of the flaws of the carceral approach, it appears to be the dominant approach in anti-trafficking work. Musto outlines four alternatives: i) decriminalizing prostitution; ii) services not moored to the criminal-justice system; iii) having the right to be forgotten; and iv) a non-punitive system of protectionism. Overall, the recommendations call for approaches less aligned to the criminal justice system.

Generally, the arguments and narratives in this book are balanced, showing a nuanced and coherent appreciation and critical analysis of the carceral approach. Yet, I am skeptical about the feasibility and effectiveness of alternatives and recommendations that are in contention with the dominant system. Would the alternatives presented provide necessary protection for victims and non-state actors in view of the power that traffickers hold? What about less extreme alternatives that are endogenous to the current system, such as automatically sealing all records of victims, to mitigate the unintended consequences?

Nonetheless, this book highlights important narratives and arguments about the carceral approach and would be an informative read for those interested in trafficking and criminal justice.

Book Review Two:

Messinger, Adam M. (2017). LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence: Lessons for Policy, Practice, and Research. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Reviewed by Rayna E. Momen, M.A., West Virginia University

Since the late 1970’s, researchers have begun to explore violence in intimate relationships in which at least one partner falls under the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) umbrella. However, current scholarship fails to provide a comprehensive review of existing literature to inform policy, practice, and research. Several key issues are still unclear, such as the scope and prevalence of LGBTQ intimate partner violence (IPV), and the causes, tactics and contexts of this violence. To fill these gaps in the literature, Adam Messinger offers the first book of its kind that compiles the wealth of research on LGBTQ IPV, in hopes to raise awareness of this often understudied public health problem. According to Messinger, research shows that sexual minorities and individuals who have had same-gender relationships are at a heightened risk of specific forms of IPV, including sexual, physical, and psychological, as compared to heterosexuals and individuals who have only engaged in intimate relationships with people of a different gender. Such findings warrant more attention and focus.

LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence: Lessons for Policy, Practice, and Research draws on this breadth of literature to examine the subject in greater depth. Due to membership in stigmatized groups, LGBTQ victims face unique obstacles when attempting to escape such violence, and they also experience violence in unique ways. Fear of having one’s sexual orientation or gender identity outed (which can have real-world consequences), loss of economic stability (due to leaving an intimate partner and facing a discriminatory world), and gender-specific abuse experienced by transgender IPV victims (such as having the transition process controlled by an intimate partner) illustrate why it is necessary to examine LGBTQ IPV distinct from heterosexual cisgender (HC) IPV. In a well-organized and thematic way, Messinger makes the scholarly literature accessible to a wide audience of academics and non-academics through coherent language, honing in on what we do and do not know about the problem in the United States and abroad despite the limitation of the book’s English-language-centric nature.

Messinger begins by dispelling prevailing myths about LGBTQ IPV, which is a useful means of introducing one of the main challenges with studying this phenomenon. Unlike many scholars, he succeeds in avoiding the conflation of gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as that of sex and gender, through clear articulation of relevant terminology in the introductory chapter. He offers data specific to LGBTQ individuals as distinct categories, which are too often studied in tandem, and emphasizes the critical role language plays in our understanding of certain groups. Where possible, an intersectional perspective is used to examine how race, class, gender, and other demographic indicators influence LGBTQ IPV, contributing to the books’ inclusive structure.

The author brings to light an often-overlooked problem and offers practical suggestions for increasing protections and improving service provision for LGBTQ people who are victimized by intimate partners. According to Messinger, failure to acknowledge LGBTQ IPV contributes to increased prevalence. Although international research is lacking, he addresses the ways that broader societal attitudes toward LGBTQ people serves to criminalize their identities and behaviors. In particular, nearly forty percent of nations deem same-gender sexual acts illegal, with just over five percent imposing capital punishment. Due to deviating from societal norms, many current laws are in place that deny LGBTQ people equal and human rights.

The focus on the problematic nature of examining LGBTQ IPV from the lens of HC IPV is one of the most important features of this book. Because of the unique ways such violence is experienced, one-size-fits-all models are insufficient. While modifying HC IPV standards of care may be an attempt at greater inclusivity, it tends to create even more barriers to help-seeking for victims. As Messinger notes, in many cases, HC IPV screening tools utilized by mental and medical health providers are merely modified to include gender-neutral terminology, with little knowledge as to whether LGBTQ IPV victims will be appropriately identified. It is likely that many such victims are overlooked, reinforcing the need to create LGBTQ IPV specific screening and supports.

Messinger’s critique of the atheoretical nature of much of the existing literature is appreciated, as theoretical frameworks are crucial in understanding LGBTQ IPV. His suggestion to draw from multiple theoretical perspectives, such as feminist theory and minority stress theory, is an important consideration. Messinger states that by expanding our conception of gender to include gender identity and gender performance, as well as our conception of inequities to include a broad range of oppressive belief systems, such as racism, classism, and cissexism, the relevance of gender-based IPV theories becomes readily apparent. He makes a compelling case in support of applying gender-based theories to examine LGBTQ IVP.

Having focused much of my research on violence against transgender women in intimate partnerships, I found the methodology section especially useful. The inclusion of real-world accounts from LGBTQ IPV victims illuminates the systematic failings of both governmental and nongovernmental sources, and will likely serve to humanize these victims for individuals who come into this book believing some of the myths that have negated help-seeking efforts already in place.

Data from studies spanning the last few decades offer insight into the failure to adequately care for LGBTQ IPV victims. This book is critical for mental health and medical practitioners, as well as those in the legal field more likely to come into contact with victims. In addition, friends, family and loved ones may learn to better recognize IPV and become positive informal supports. Increasing the rights of LGBTQ people in larger society has the potential to reduce IPV. As Messinger notes, the reality that LGBTQ human rights have not been realized in much of the world affects the extent to which LGBTQ IPV is legitimated. Without equal protections, the needs of LGBTQ people will continue to be overlooked with respect to policy, practice, and research. Perhaps the best place to begin is at the local level, pushing for greater protections for LGBTQ people in all aspects of life.