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The Masculine Wilderness Podcast

May 9, 2024

Fighting Sexual Abuse in Our Community with Yasmin Vafa

Sexual abuse is a deeply entrenched issue within our community. However, the focus on the most extreme forms of sex trafficking can blind us from the pervasive reality of everyday sexual exploitation and violence that occur right in our backyard. While attention to extreme cases is crucial, it's equally important to address the more common forms of abuse that often go unnoticed. By acknowledging and confronting the prevalence of sexual violence within our community, we can take meaningful steps toward fighting human trafficking and creating a safe and better world. It's time to broaden our focus to encompass the entirety of the issue, recognizing that solving sexual violence starts right here, in our own neighborhoods, with a commitment to ending all forms of exploitation and abuse.

In this episode, Yasmin Vafa and Tomas discuss gender inequality, violence against women and girls, and child marriage in the United States and how they contribute to the larger system of exploitation and inequality. Yasmin is the founder and executive director of Rights4Girls, a national human rights organization dedicated to protecting marginalized young women and girls in the United States. Yasmin is an award-winning human rights lawyer and advocate. Her work focuses on the intersection of race, gender, violence, and law. As a nationally recognized expert on gender-based violence, 

Yasmin has successfully advocated for several laws at the federal and state levels. She has testified before the US Senate, state legislatures, and international human rights bodies. She has co-authored multiple reports detailing the over-criminalization of girls and young women of color, particularly the survivors of sexual violence. Yasmin and her work have been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, ABC News, National Public Radio, and more. She has served on the US advisory committee on the sex trafficking of children and youth and is adjunct faculty for the National Council of Juvenile Family Court Judges, where she leads the National Institute of Justice domestic child sex trafficking.

Note: This conversation touches on sexual violence, and while it’s never our goal to sensationalize the trauma of this topic, we strive to speak truthfully about the damage being done. 

Tune in!

Resources Mentioned in the Episode


The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline; The Girl’s Story:

Rights4Girls Reports:

Key Highlights From The Show:
  • [00:01] Intro and a quick bio of the guest, Yasmin Vafa

  • [04:17] Yasmin's journey that inspired her work at Rights4Girls

  • [08:29] Human Rights Lens and what it means in Yasmin’s work

  • [12:26] Yasmin's human rights approach to fighting human trafficking 

  • [16:37] The prevalence of teen sexual violence and gender-based violence 

  • [18:30] Marginalized girl’s gender-based violence and criminalization 

  • [24:00] Adultification bias: Why there is no effective change in gender-based violence

  • [28:24] What sex trafficking is and the kind of violent crime it is

  • [33:18] The connection between child sex trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence

  • [38:01] What we’re missing and the cost of seeing sex trafficking so narrowly


  • [46:27] Fixing our backyard and Yasmin's achievement in getting 12 states to pass child marriage protection law

  • [49:03] The difference between day-to-day lived experiences for boys vs. girls

  • [56:26] One of the most harmful and hopeful trends in our culture today  

  • [01: 00:27] Things that bring hope and life into Yasmin's life 

  • [01:03:19] Yasmin's final words of encouragement to all men

Standout Quotes:

  • “Every girl and every person has the right to live their full potential without any fear of violence, exploitation or any of these obstacles and barriers.” - [13:32]

  • “The sexism and the racism that black and brown women experience get pushed to young girls of color because they have intersecting obstacles of age, race, and gender which compete to make them less valued, credible, and seeing.”- [24:15]

  • “The focus on the most extreme forms of sex trafficking can blind us to the much more common everyday forms of sexual exploitation and sexual violence that are on the spectrum.”- [38:23]

  • “We have a lot of issues right here, and there are a lot of girls in our community waiting for us to help them; we have a responsibility to improve and live up to the reputation that we hold for ourselves.”- [44:11]

  • “Once girls start to be perceived, sexualized, and objectified by men, it’s when they start to feel unsafe, and this changes how they navigate life.”- [50:21]

  • “The world would be a much better place if men could exercise more empathy.”- [01:06:16]

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