July 1, 2017

VICTORY! Disney to remove sex trafficking scene in Pirates of the Caribbean Rides

Disney is finally recognizing the need to stop joking about and glamorizing human sex trafficking. They announced that they will remove the scene in the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride where women are tied up, crying, and are being auctioned off while men are jeering at them, yelling “We wants the redhead!” The National Center on Sexual Exploitation applauds this move and thanks Disney for following our advice. It is never ok to joke about selling another human being.

When I returned to Disney World as an adult New Year’s Day 2014, I was so bothered by the scene that the rest of the evening spent at the most magical place on earth was ruined. How could Disney depict this terrible atrocity in such a joking manner and in a ride that is supposed to be for all ages?

Thankfully, we have the support of many others who get as upset as I do when they see mainstream companies normalizing sexual exploitation. When I returned from my vacation, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation sent Disney’s executives a letter and we launched a petition which yielded about 2,000 emails sent directly to their executive’s personal emails. (Thanks to those of you who sign our many petitions!)

Then, in March 2016, one of our supporters contacted us, feeling that same outrage I felt, after she visited Disneyland’s Pirates ride. She pushed us to do more on the issue. Here’s an excerpt from her message:


…When I was younger, I used to love that ride. But after growing older and witnessing some of the sexual atrocities that occur in this world, I became very troubled by the fact that this “children’s” or “family” ride openly portrays the human/sex trafficking of women in a lighthearted, comical manner–as if something so atrocious is a laughing matter…

How can such a scene exist in a park from a company that is meant to be family-friendly? How do girls or women who have experienced trafficking and/or sexual exploitation who come through this ride feel? I can say that they’re probably feeling that Disneyland at that moment is anything but the happiest place on earth. I personally love Disneyland and want it to be a happy place for all who enter–especially those who have experienced some of the atrocities of this world and are seeking an escape and happiness by attending Disneyland.

I just feel that human trafficking and sexual exploitation should not be treated as a form of amusement or entertainment–because they are not. They are real, serious matters that many people suffer from. Can you please help in trying to make my hope a reality by instigating a petition and/or campaign to get Disney to remove this dreadful scene from that ride? If any organization can do it, I bet this one can.

Thank you for considering this. I look forward to your reply.



We sent two more strongly worded letters (and follow up emails), but this time to higher Disney officials, thanks to Jalena’s help with digging up their contact information.

We celebrate this action as a victory for the movement!

We celebrate it as proof that together we can change policies and we can make a difference.

More news articles on this change at Disney:


Dawn Hawkins

Chief Executive Officer

Dawn Hawkins is CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the leading organization exposing the connections between all forms of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and child sexual abuse. Dawn’s energy, creativity and mobilization skills are deployed to build a world free from sexual violence, with freedom and human dignity for all.

Dawn is deeply committed to bipartisan political solutions at the federal and state level. Her issue expertise, visionary initiatives, and innovative strategy have led to groundbreaking change in the legislative arena and in multimillion-dollar corporate policies.

Dawn has been instrumental in re-imaging the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has centered the need to address buyer demand for commercial sex, called out corporate entities facilitating exploitation through the annual Dirty Dozen List, fostered an international movement, and constantly: advocates for survivors. Her work has sparked change at Google, Hilton Worldwide, Comcast, Walmart, the Department of Defense, Instagram, TikTok, and other influential firms. Dawn has appeared on many television programs, including CNN, Fox & Friends, and Good Morning America. She regularly authors articles and speaks around the country addressing the public health harms of pornography, curbing demand for sex trafficking, protecting children and families in our digital world, and more.

Further Reading