Freedom Requires Action: Demand Reduction


5 Facts about the Demand for Commercial Sex:

1. “High-frequency” buyers purchase so often that their actions account for a disproportionately large share of the illegal sex trade. About 25% of active buyers report purchasing weekly or monthly, and their activity accounts for nearly 75% of market transactions. These buyers are more likely to have started at a young age and with the help or encouragement of others in their social networks. - Demand Abolition Report 2019
2. A US study of a nationally representative sample of 2,525 adult males found that 1 out of every 25 men have bought sex in the past three years. - Journal of Criminal Justice 63 (2019)
3. 1 in 5 men who have never purchased sex before say that they “could envision buying sex in the future if the circumstances were right.”  - Demand Abolition Report 2019
4. Survey data from more than 10,000 men and 3,000 women across six countries showed sex buying was strongly associated with non-partner rape and using physical violence against female partners. - United Nations Report 2016
5. On average, a buyer will spend more than $100 per transaction, which would estimate the annual revenue generated by the US commercial sex industry to be $5.7 billion.  - Demand Abolition Report 2019

Demand reduction is a critical strategy in combating human trafficking in the United States. This approach focuses on reducing the demand for trafficking victims by targeting the individuals and networks that create this demand.

Below are policy recommendations on reducing the demand categorized according to the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act’s 3 Pillars: Prevention, Prosecution, and Protection.

One of the most effective ways to reduce demand is through public education campaigns aimed at raising awareness about the realities of human trafficking. Campaign topics could include but are not limited to: 
1. Informing the public about the human cost of sex trafficking.
2. The risk factors associated with purchasing commercial sex, not only from a legal perspective, but also a health perspective.
3. Tech solutions that inform individuals purchasing commercial sex online with messages that deter a completed purchase. 
4. Prevent childhood exposure to pornography.
5. Companies can help prevent sex trafficking by creating and enforcing employer policies prohibiting sex buying.

Another important approach to demand reduction is through law enforcement efforts to identify and prosecute individuals who engage in the purchase or trafficking of sex workers. This approach requires coordination between law enforcement agencies and community organizations and the development of robust legal frameworks that criminalize the purchase of sex.

1. Shift law enforcement’s finite resources from arresting and adjudicating prostituted persons toward arresting and adjudicating sex buyers
2. Increase penalties for repeat buyers. 
3. Prosecution of buyers as conspirators to sex trafficking
4. Reform schools for sex buyers while also addressing sex addiction or mental health conditions of buyers
a. Reform schools should be created in tandem with lived experience experts
b. Should include information on the trauma those purchased for sex have likely endured prior, during, and after their exploitation
c. Sex buyers should be fined an amount that covers cost of reform school and a dollar amount that is allotted towards community services that serve survivors of trafficking
5. Refine current demand reduction strategies to target high-frequency buyers.

In addition to these strategies, demand reduction also involves addressing the root causes of trafficking, such as poverty, inequality, and gender-based violence. By providing vulnerable individuals with economic opportunities, education, and social support, communities can help reduce the number of people who are at risk of being trafficked.
1. Implement mandatory minimum fines on adjudicated sex buyers to help offset costs of survivor exit services, effective long-term sex buyer education programs, and law enforcement operations.

Demand reduction is crucial to any comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking in the United States. By reducing the demand for trafficking victims, communities can help ensure that vulnerable individuals are not exploited for profit and that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions.

Partner Resources:
NCOSE - How to Stop Sex Buying (2022)
Demand Forum
Fight the New Drug

Policy, Global Epidemic, Statistics

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