The Demand Side of Sex Trafficking: Buyers

demand-take-2_19293727_f0bc99c02472dec77721b79aafe77a6e7668824eThe sex trafficking of Connecticut’s women and children is fueled by one thing, buyers. It is a fact that there are men in our state who pay to sexually abuse children and women. And, the reality is, the overwhelming majority of these men get away with it. On average, the number of men who pay for sex ranges from 5-25, per victim of sex trafficking or prostitution, each day.

In 2015, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) identified 133 children at high risk for human trafficking. In that same time period, 251 individuals were arrested for prostitution. Using a conservative estimate, if the combined number of  384 victims/prostitutes had one man, per day, pay for sex for just half the year, that would mean 69,000 men paid for sex in 2015 in Connecticut alone. Using a more realistic number, if 384 victims/prostitutes had one man, per day, pay for sex for the entire year, 140,160 men paid for sex.

If we were to actually use the low in the 5-25 average range, and 5 men paid for sex per victim/prostitute, per day for the entire year, the number of men who paid for sex in Connecticut in 2015 would be in the millions. Sure…some men may be repeat buyers, but you get the point.

And yet, only 374 arrests were made for crimes associated with buying sex in 2015 (and that’s a high estimate*). ‘Patronizing a prostitute’ is the charge intended to address the illegal purchase of women and children for sex. In 2015, 48 people were arrested on this charge. ‘Patronizing a prostitute’ is a misdemeanor when the individual bought is above the age of 18, but when the individual is a child, the crime is a Class C felony. Of those 48 arrests made for ‘patronizing a prostitute,’ not one arrest was made for the felony charge; even though DCF identified 133 children who had money or goods exchanged with them for sex in 2015.

In fact, since Connecticut created a felony charge for ‘patronizing a prostitute,’ not one person has been arrested or convicted for paying to sexually abuse a child. Prosecutors and police argue that men who pay to sexually abuse children are arrested on other charges, including ‘sexual assault in the second degree’ and ‘risk of injury’. Even if that is the case, I have accounted for those crimes in the total 374 arrests*.

So, if the number of men who pay for sex with children and prostitutes is likely in the tens of thousands, why aren’t more men being arrested and why isn’t anyone freaking out about this? I believe a major reason is that we, as a culture, don’t talk about the demand side of sex trafficking and prostitution. We debate, ad nauseam, over whether or not women choose prostitution, but we rarely discuss why men pay for sex, how many men pay for sex, and the consequences of men paying for sex. 

One enormous consequence of men buying sex is that it creates a demand. And, in order to fill that demand, and make money off that demand, traffickers and pimps sell women and children for sex.

Research shows that there are generally three different types of men who buy sex; those who buy sex and think the person they’re buying is into it; those who buy sex and know the person they’re buying is not into it but just ignore that; and then those who buy sex and know the person they’re buying isn’t into it and like that. Why don’t more people know that? Why don’t we talk about that?

Our cultural ignorance over men who buy sex is similar to the way we put up blinders when discussing child pornography. We limit our outrage to the individual who is arrested and makes the news, and not on the hundreds of thousands of children who are sexually abused, filmed and photographed, in order to fill the demand for pornographic images of children.

We must focus our attention and efforts on those who buy sex and put an end to the demand that fuels sex trafficking. Take action by joining Connecticut’s movement–CT Campaign Against Demand! But more importantly, start talking about it. Raise awareness. “Johns” have names after all, and their actions are causing sex trafficking.

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*These estimates are based on 2015 arrest data for three crimes, including; ‘sexual assault in the second degree’ and ‘risk of injury,’ both of which might include crimes other than buying sex.

*374 arrests for buying-related crimes is a generous estimate because it includes all arrests in 2015 for sexual assault in the 2nd degree and risk of injury, illegal contact with victim under the age of 16 and under the age of 13.

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