International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Media Matters: Media Portrayal of Sex Trafficking: Help or Hindrance?

10/01/2017
by Nicole A. Sciarrino, MA, MS
Recent trends in novels and associated films have included themes of dystopian societies (e.g., The Hunger Games, Divergent series, The Maze Runner) often depicting fictional locations. In contrast, The Handmaid’s Tale, a recent release on Hulu and novel written by Margaret Atwood, is set in the United States (U.S.) following a takeover of the U.S. government by a totalitarian theonomy called Gilead. The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a dystopian society in which the population has decreased due to rampant infertility associated with pollutants. Women have lost all of their rights—including the right to read and write—and are either forced into labor or, if proven fertile, captured and held as “handmaids.” The sole purpose of the handmaid is to become impregnated, which involves subjection to monthly “ceremonies,” characterized by intercourse with prominent men in the theocracy. The remainder of the handmaid’s day is colored with imprisonment, physical violence, and psychological abuse to maintain control and submission over the women. Meant to be a work of fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale draws parallels to domestic human trafficking, with an emphasis on women in sex trafficking.

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