At Not For Sale, we are constantly talking about moving upstream and creating new futures for survivors or those vulnerable to human trafficking. I truly believe that Not For Sale is a pioneer in the nonprofit world and that their models are a replicable and sustainable way to help end human trafficking in our lifetime. Recognizing that human trafficking is an economic crises, Not For Sale works in those communities where families might not have another opportunity to make money for their family and helps give them a future that doesn’t include selling their children or working in sweat shops. Building up the communities where we know trafficking victims come from will help to prevent trafficking in those areas in the future. I truly believe this.
Still, there’s an elephant in the room. No business can survive without supply and demand, and yet sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. How have we let this happen?
Children as young as five are being trafficked for sex – this is a fact. While it’s true that these children come from impoverished areas, that their families may have had a hand in selling them, and that there are people in the world making a living off of trading human beings, is all irrelevant to me when looking at the bigger picture. Someone is paying to have sex with this child. Why aren’t we talking about this? Why aren’t we more enraged? As long as there are men willing to buy sex, the sex trade will exist. We need organizations like Not For Sale to build up communities and create just employment where none exists – but traffickers are in this for the business; as long as there is demand they will find a supply.
Research has shown that most John’s [people who purchase sex] are generally well-respected men with regular jobs. They don’t know more than what appears on the surface: that these women are making ‘easy money’ or that they are choosing this profession. So, the John’s continue to pay for sex. Without knowing anything else, it’s an easy way to suppress a need and keep prostitution alive. Yet the mere fact that this continues to happen – and thrive – in our country, is a fact that keeps me up at night.
An easy answer is to blame the John’s, but it’s just not that cut and dry. The sad truth of the matter is that the John’s don’t know any better. For the patron, it’s impossible to know that the women behind the windows aren’t just “working”; some of them are. It’s hard to imagine that they are chained up after hours, that they are beaten when they don’t bring in enough money, or that their family’s lives are threatened if they try to get out of the business; but some of them are.
I believe that, as a society, we have failed. We can no longer turn a blind eye; this is happening in our own backyards, to our own children, by our own men. We need to take responsibility. We need to educate the John’s about the facts behind sex trafficking and prostitution. “For real change to occur, we have to turn the tables and point the finger of blame at the real perpetrators… Society has to radically rethink men’s responsibility in prostitution, and prostitution must be seen and defined as a male issue. To put the breaks on the flourishing demand for paid sex, we need to do away with patriarchal attitudes and half-baked excuses.” – Victor Malarek