Originally Published at HuffPost
Hundreds of protests erupted across the country in recent weeks, purportedly to demand an end to child sex trafficking. From tiny communities such as Poteau, Oklahoma, to Los Angeles, Miami, Denver and other major cities, people stormed the streets, calling for the mass execution of pedophiles and even accusing various public figures of torturing, raping and enslaving children to harvest their blood.
Child sex trafficking is a dire problem: It happens in all 50 states, almost always at the hands of people the victims know and trust. But QAnon — in its virulent campaign to expose a supposed underground pedophilia ring run by the liberal elite — is exacerbating the very crisis it claims to be fighting. As the movement appropriates and sensationalizes the issue to recruit more followers into its conspiratorial web, legitimate anti-trafficking organizations are suffering significant collateral damage.
There’s also concern that the absurd nature of QAnon’s conspiracy theories — such as the assertion that Satan-worshipping elites are extracting adrenaline from the blood of children to oxidize into adrenochrome, a psychoactive drug — is trivializing sex trafficking and diverting serious concern away from the crisis.
“When you have these very extreme narratives, there’s always pushback in the opposite direction,” said Haley McNamara, the director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation. “We have even seen some people saying that sex trafficking itself a myth.”
The QAnon-perpetuated myth that kids are being snatched off the streets en masse and forced into sexual slavery by a network of deep state cronies is not just ludicrous — it’s dangerous, experts and advocates said, because it obscures the real way that children in the U.S. are trafficked.
“You’re not going to protect your kids from trafficking by listening to what QAnon says, because that’s not the way child sex trafficking works at all,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.