Recently four leaders in the movement to combat sex trafficking, who are also survivors of sex trafficking, joined together at “Survivors Speak: Essential Leadership in Combating Demand for Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sex” in Washington, D.C.
Rachel Lloyd, Executive Director and Founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, moderated the panel and began by raising the question of whether leaders should focus on only reducing the demand for children to reduce demand for adults as well. The average age of entry for boys and girls into the commercial sex industry is 12 and 13. What people fail to consider is that these same children, if they survive, make up a population of the sex trafficking victims over the age of 18.
The panelists, who included Tina Frundt of Courtney’s House and Kristy Childs of Veronica’ Voice, then addressed ways in which to reduce demand. Tina brought up that we must understand the population of buyers. The buyers are not one ‘type’ of man, johns (buyers of commercial sex) range in socio-economic status and race. Marian Hatcher of Cook County Sherriff’s office pointed out that when pimps are caught by police, it is difficult to gather evidence against them for a trial. Therefore, it is important for leaders in the anti-trafficking movement to shift focus to johns. When victims of sex trafficking are interviewed by law enforcement, rarely are they asked about the johns of whom they often have the names and telephone numbers. Once johns are heavily targeted by law enforcement, sex trafficking will become a less profitable business for pimps.
The panelists demonstrated that survivors are crucial in the anti-trafficking movement. Survivors are able to provide a unique perspective on ways in which we can comprehensively approach the issue of sex trafficking here in the United States. Vednita Carter, Founder and Executive Director of Breaking Free, states that survivors serve as positive role models, can directly relate to those in the life of being prostituted, and can show victims that this is not the life any person is meant to live.