Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor
In recent weeks, campus has been abuzz with talk of a potential sex-trafficking ring opperating on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
These rumors began after police responded to four reports of people hearing a variety of fear-inducing noises on the South Side from crying babies to women screaming and calling for help. While police came to the scenes of all these reports, they found no evidence of recording devices, women in distress or foul play of any kind.
As a response, administration sent out a list of safety tips for students who live and/or frequent South Side. While this was sent out as a healthy precaution and general safety reminder, many students have taken this reminder as an indication that something darker is occurring on the South Side.
Although police have not found any evidence connecting these reports to sex-trafficking, many students have proposed the narrative that these noises were pre-recorded and played loudly to draw women out of their homes in the hopes that they would become more vulnerable to attack. Other theories have included the potential of sex-traffickers luring women to abduction.
However, there were no coinciding missing person reports or reports of attacks.
Still, many students have communicated their concern about sex-traffickers in the area.
While it is important to take proper precautions when it comes to personal safety, there is a danger in deeming an act sex-trafficking when there is, in fact, no proof.
These types of accusations demonize communities and perpetuate stereotypes that specific neighborhoods should be labeled as “bad areas.”
From an early age, most children are taught that the act of spreading rumors is inherently bad and can damage one’s reputation permanently. But for some reason, this type of behavior is deemed acceptable when in reference to neighborhoods. Rumors of sex trafficking spread like wildfire across localized Facebook groups and Twitter feeds without police or news confirmation and can greatly impact a community.
Although it seems unlikely that the rantings, rumors and conspiracies of average citizens online can hold much weight, it must be noted that the voices of community members— both true and false — can greatly shape public perception of an area.
In addition to the poor light these allegations shed on certain communities, like the South Side, this detracts from the realities and true dangers of human trafficking.
Sex trafficking is a serious, global issue that must not be ignored, but unsubstantiated claims draw valuable resources and public attention from the true atrocities of this issue.
Even though the need for public safety must be recognized, it cannot outweigh the truth of the situation.