As rumors swirl about Sen. Menendez (D-New Jersey) flying to the Dominican Republic to purchase sex from underage prostitutes, the topic of “demand” surfaces. Without demand, prostitution and sex trafficking would not exist – no buyers, no business.
“Demand” describes what johns do; they buy access to another human being, or more specifically to their body parts, for a short time. The people who sell that access are called “pimps” or “sex traffickers.”
When people hear about prostitution and sex trafficking, most are outraged and want to know what they can do to help. One of the simplest steps which can have a great impact is to ask the local police force to enforce the laws on the books against prostitution, promoting prostitution (pimps and traffickers), and purchasing prostitution (johns). You may also ask what the breakdown is of the arrests between the different categories to find out if they are attacking the problem from the demand side.
In 2008, Concerned Women for America asked Congress to insert a provision (Section 237) into the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-457) to change the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports entry for “Prostitution and Commercialized Vice” in order to show the breakdown of arrests under that category. Currently, all of these arrests are lumped together, but beginning with the 2013 report, this category will show how many people were arrested for prostitution, promoting prostitution, or purchasing prostitution. When this data is available next year, it will make it easier to see where law enforcement agencies focus their efforts.
More immediately, you can find out what your local law enforcement agency is doing to fight demand by going to Demandforum.net. This innovative new website links to more than 900 cities around the United States and shows what efforts are being employed to fight demand. If you enter your city and state, it will show you whether there are efforts to fight demand and, if so, which methods, who the key partners are in the area fighting demand, and local news stories about the problem and solutions.
The website tracks twelve tactics that are used to deter people from buying sex. They are: auto seizure, cameras, community service, john school, letter, license suspension, neighborhood action, public education, reverse stings, shaming, SOAP (Stay Out of Areas with Prostitution) orders, and Web stings. Each tactic is explained, and examples of their use from around the country are mentioned.
The website also gives examples of language from effective local ordinances aimed at ending demand. It lists many resources and examples for activists and concerned citizens to use to educate themselves about the problem and, perhaps, share with their local law enforcement agency.
Until there is a concerted effort to go after demand and punish johns, the problems of prostitution and sex trafficking will continue to thrive. When johns were interviewed for studies about what would deter them from buying sex, the majority said it is the threat of family, co-workers, and friends finding out.
Let’s encourage law enforcement to shine the light on those purchasing sex so they are no longer protected by the shadows of the commercial sex industry.