I recently posted a video presentation “Don’t Buy Sex” (see below) about the health risk of prostitution and probability purchased women are victims of human trafficking. Specifically, I was speaking to the Johns and their belief that it is ok to buy sex. Someone I don’t know, he appears to be a light-skinned male who lists his location in a local Texas suburb, responded: “Human trafficking is the lowest in countries that legalize prostitution. So this is like asking a teenager to use abstinence. It is not a zero sum game. Legalize it and [p]ut regulation and taxation around it and it will cut the amount of disease and human trafficking. Look for real solutions and not BS moralistic pap.”
Appreciating the involvement in the conversation, I responded with my belief that the Nordic Model might be the best compromise for a very complicated issue. The Nordic Model supports selling as legal and buying as illegal to shift the focus on the demand and “Johns” (this is limited to adult prostitution). However, I’m not sure the Texas Legislature is ready to implement such a change.
Even so, former sex workers responses to a survey we did for our SAFE (Survivors Acquiring Freedom and Empowerment) Court graduates challenges my thinking.
As a way of background, SAFE Court is for people caught in the “game” of prostitution between ages 17-25, who don’t currently have a defense warranted by Texas Penal Code 43.02(d) as a current victim of human trafficking. It is important for people to understand the history of SAFE Court. In attempting to increase our identification of human trafficking victims, we kept hearing from a lot of people trapped in the “game” since teenage years (when they would have been considered victims), but were not caught or identified by law enforcement until over the age of 18 when the defense is not so readily available.
Also, the Children Assessment Center recognizes about 90% of human trafficking victims suffered prior forms of child abuse. During my time at the District Attorney’s Office, we recognized the breadth of our local victimization problem and created a program, consistent with and honoring the law, yet giving one an avenue of support and the opportunity to avoid conviction, which often starts the costly cycle of the revolving door of criminal justice. SAFE Court is the result of a Department of Justice / Smart Prosecution Grant Award and is monitored by a research partner at Sam Houston State University.
Back to the survey, the survey asked our first few graduates if they favor legalization of prostitution. To my surprise, all said … “No.” This answer challenged me to think more about it. What if your family was starving and our society said its ok for you to be subjected to sex with anyone, when they want, in order to make a living? Would you do it? Would you feel the need to have to do it if you have nothing else?
Former sex workers made it clear they don’t want to do it and reminded me none of us would want our mothers, wives or daughters having to do the same. If this view makes me “BS moralistic,” please get me a badge; I’ll wear it proudly.