By Jillian Gilchrest, Age 33
Earlier this week, news broke that Fairfield police had arrested 10 men attempting to solicit sex with a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. Horrifying as it is to hear that men in Connecticut are willing to pay to rape a child, the arrests of these men was welcome news for those in the advocacy community working to prevent and address the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children. Unfortunately, arrests of sex buyers aren’t the norm. And, until just a few years ago, it was common practice for the police to arrest children found to be selling sex (once commonly referred to as child prostitutes).
Thanks to the work of many advocates, including Connecticut’s Department of Children (DCF) and Families and policy makers, children who are sold for sex are now treated as victims, a huge shift in thinking and protocol. There has also been a great deal done to arrest individuals who benefit from the sexual sale of children (i.e. traffickers). But, when it comes to the men who buy sex…we have a long way to go.
According to those directly working with victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Connecticut, the majority of men who pay to rape children are not arrested and if they are, they receive little to no time behind bars. Take a recent case in the news of a 17 year old Connecticut girl who was abducted by a man and forced to have sex with more than 50 men. The girl is now receiving services- thank god, and the man who abducted and sold her into sexual slavery has been arrested, but where are the 50 men who paid $60 a pop to rape her? Are the police working to identify and arrest those men?
Unfortunately, this phenomenon of not going after the buyers of sex isn’t surprising. The number of arrests and convictions for prostitution-related crimes bear out that a buyer of sex (commonly referred to as a “John”) does not face the same consequences that an individual involved with selling sex does. In fact, over the last 10 years in Connecticut, prostitutes were convicted at a rate of 7 times that of those caught soliciting sex.
While the majority of individuals who are sexually abused as children do not become prostitutes, the overwhelming majority of prostitutes were sexually abused as children. As we begin to do more to address and prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children, we should also be doing more to ensure that when those children become adults, they don’t become criminalized for their victimization.
There is one common denominator in the world of commercial sexual exploitation, and that is the buyer—and the buyers are almost 100% men. I acknowledge that men were boys once too and so educating them and improving cultural practices that socialize men to think that they need and are deserving of sex is important, but I also believe that we need to do more to punish buyers of sex with children and adults. Education is fine, but if we as a society, and as a state, want to truly prevent the sexual exploitation of women and children, we need to punish those fueling the demand.
Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at Michelle.Noehren@cga.ct.gov.