As long as demand for the commercial sex markets remains strong, reductions in incidences of child sex trafficking should not be expected. Attempts to combat drug trafficking and abuse have proven to be costly and ineffective by aiming at supply and distribution.
What about the demand for commercial sex in the first place? We can assume that a different and urgent approach needs to take place in ending the demand for people.
The “service gap” in sex trafficking is much too large to even be remotely closed by providing victim services. If supply is addressed by dramatically increasing victim services, it would still be the case that the majority of survivors remain un-served.
While it is imperative that victim services and interventions are available, addressing the supply side of this market only creates temporary effects and displacement.
According to Demandforum.net, a national anti-demand collaborative website, “more than half of prostituted or trafficked women began selling sex as a child.” I would be so bold to state that there should be no distinction between those victims with or without a trafficker because in the eyes of the buyer, they are all willing participants.
Needless to say, where there is demand, there is profit to be made, and where there is profit to be made, the supply and distribution end will take care of itself. Because children are the most vulnerable and attainable, they will continue to be trafficked as long as there is a demand for commercial sex.
My top four recommendations for reducing demand in the United States are:
- Early education and awareness
- Reverse stings
- Auto seizures
- Perpetrator reform
I want to emphasize the focus on early education being a primary and vital intervention versus a secondary or tertiary approach. There is a great need for a shift in cultural awareness and tolerance around sex issues in general, but primarily around the acceptance of the commercial sex trade industry prevailing and damaging communities worldwide.
There are not many educational programs out there to model, but here are the best my colleagues and I have found:
- The CAASE curriculum by Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
- Empowerment Youth Program by iEmpathize.org
- Real Talk by Survivors4solutions.com
Furthermore, efforts need to be focused on matching the crime with the punishment for perpetrators. This is not a street crime misdemeanor. This should be a felony and on the list of violent crimes in light of the atrocities occurring on multiple levels of the human spirit, the human body, and in our communities.
Once efforts are made at catching buyers in action through reverse stings, punishment and reform should be put in place to set an example to communities and individuals that this activity will no longer be tolerated.
Auto seizures are an immediate and effective response to addressing demand, and even better to send the perpetrator to an intensive counseling model program. The mistakenly identified “John” schools have served as a slap on the wrist for a a violent crime.
The solution to ending the atrocities associated with sex trafficking is held within ending demand altogether, instead of chasing to save the many lives that are being devalued and lost at an alarming rate.
Robin Rivera serves as the in-house researcher and trainer for Runaway Girl, FPC., where they are currently invested in sustainable community based responses to the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).