An article on January 25 about sexual slavery referred erroneously to the film Scary Movie 2. A Mexican woman who was being held as a sex slave in the United States could not have been taken to see it by her captor; by the time the movie came out in 2001, she had already escaped and returned to Mexico.
"The Girl Next Door," an article about the importing of women and girls to the United States for sexual slavery, has generated much discussion since it appeared in the Times Magazine on January 25. In response to questions from readers and other publications about sources and accuracy, the magazine has carried out a thorough review of the article.
On the issue of sources, the writer, Peter Landesman, conducted more than forty-five interviews, including many with high-ranking federal officials, law enforcement officers, and representatives of human rights organizations. Four sources insisted on anonymity to protect their professional positions. A magazine fact-checker also interviewed all relevant sources, many of them both before and after publication. Some readers have questioned the figure of ten thousand enforced prostitutes brought into this country each year. The source of that number is Kevin Bales, recommended to the magazine by Human Rights Watch as the best authority on the extent of enforced prostitution in the United States, who based his estimates on State Department documents, arrest and prosecution records, and information from nearly fifty social service agencies.
In the course of this review, several errors were discovered in specific details. One, an erroneous reference to the release date of Scary Movie 2, was corrected in the magazine last Sunday.
On the question whether women imported through Cotton-wood Canyon, California, could have been wearing high heels, the original source, when pressed, acknowledged that his information was hearsay. The article should not have specified what the women were wearing, and the anecdote should have been related in the past tense, since the trafficking ring was broken up in 2001.
The woman in her twenties known to her traffickers as Andrea recalled an incorrect name for the hotel to which she was taken in Juarez, Mexico. The Radisson Casa Grande had not yet opened when she escaped from her captors.
After the article was published, the writer made an impromptu comment in a radio interview, noting that Andrea has multiple-personality disorder. The magazine editors did not learn of her illness before publication. Andrea's account of her years in slavery remained consistent over two and a half years of psychotherapy. Her therapist says that her illness has no effect on the accuracy of her memory. Her hours-long interview with the author, recorded on tape, is lucid and consistent.
An independent expert consulted by the magazine, Dr. Leonard Shengold, who has written books and papers about child abuse and the reliability and unreliability of memory, affirms that a diagnosis of multiple-personality disorder is not inconsistent with accurate memories of childhood abuse. Because multiple-personality disorder has been associated with false memory, however, the diagnosis should have been cited in the article.
The magazine's cover showed a nineteen-year-old nicknamed Montserrat, who escaped from a trafficker four years ago. An insignia on her school uniform had been retouched out of the picture by the magazine's editors to shield her whereabouts. The change violated the Times's policy against altering photographs.