Medusa Movement Co-Hosts World WE Equality Model Panel

The Medusa Movement, a student-led activist group committed to intersectional support of all Colgate survivors, co-hosted an Equality Model panel with World Without Exploitation Youth (WorldWE Youth), a national coalition against human trafficking and exploitation. The event was created in support of the Equity Model and took place on Thursday, Feb. 4. According to WorldWE Youth Coalition Chair Caitlen Macias, the Equality Model is the holistic strategy to ending sex trafficking and exploitation. Thursday’s panelists included survivors of the sex trade who shared their experiences and advocated for the Equality Model.

According to Macias, the Equality Model, developed as a mechanism to combat sexual exploitation, prioritizes the rights of people who have been exploited while holding buyers and exploiters accountable by using a three-pronged approach. The strategy decriminalizes people in prostitution, provides exit strategies and trauma-informed support for survivors and criminalizes exploiters who harm people in the sex trade. According to Medusa Movement co-founder and senior Helen Ferguson, decriminalization is often mistaken as the most progressive model to address the sex trade. In countries that have implemented decriminalization, victims of the sex trade are frequently hurt and further traumatized by decriminalization, Ferguson said.

 “[The Equality Model] is extremely important because so many survivors of the sex trade are abused, raped and are victims of sex trafficking and slavery. These are horrific crimes and human rights violations that need to be taken seriously and the perpetrators need to be held responsible. Decriminalization would stop these perpetrators from being held responsible,” Ferguson said.  

According to Ferguson, the Equality Model’s structure, which addresses the unique experiences of people in the sex trade and takes all survivors into consideration, inspires the Medusa Movement’s work by fostering inclusion. 

For Medusa Movement member and junior Abby Douglas, Thursday’s panel was not only about increasing awareness of Equality Model legislation, but also debunking myths about the sex trade. According to Douglas, prostitution is a “choice-less choice.” 

“I think that prostitution has always been portrayed to me as a full choice and desire which really confused me, but putting prostitution into context and learning about the real hardships that cause people to enter prostitution was incredibly enlightening and helped me build a new desire to fight for a world where no one is bought, sold or exploited,” Douglas said. 

New York senator Liz Krueger recently introduced the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act which would decriminalize prostitution in New York while punishing sex traffickers and buyers. If passed, New York would be the first state to adopt Equality Model legislation that prioritizes the rights of survivors. According to Macias, activating young people on college campuses is crucial to passing legislation like the Equality Model. 

“I think college students are oversaturated with misinformation about the sex trade,” Macias said. “Also, the full decriminalization movement has targeted college students to get them on board with their legislation, so I think it’s very important to have college students informed about the best kinds of strategies to combat sexual exploitation and violence.” 

According to Macias, collaboration among the Medusa Movement and WorldWE Youth is critical in increasing awareness around and ultimately passing Equality Model legislation. Ferguson echoed Macias in emphasizing the importance of educating students about the legislation. 

“Although the Medusa Movement is mainly focused on work within the Colgate community, it is also extremely important that we use our platform to educate ourselves and support important causes that exist beyond our immediate community,” Ferguson said. “The Equality Model is trying to pass legislation in New York and we hope to help educate Colgate students on this legislation so that we can help to pass it and make a real difference.”

According to Macias, the event aligned with WorldWE Youth’s pillars by educating people about Equality Model legislation, bringing awareness to the issue of sex trafficking by listening to survivor voices and encouraging people to activate by supporting Equality Model legislation in their states. 

“WorldWe Youth’s mission is to ensure nobody is bought, sold or exploited, and we do this through three pillars: education, advocacy and awareness,” Macias said. “Thursday’s event brought all those things together.”