#1 Prostitution is a victimless crime. The most often stated defense of proponents of the legalization of buying sex is that it is a victimless crime. Of working adult women in the sex trade, 82% have been physically assaulted; 83% have been threatened with a weapon; 68% have been raped while working; 84% reported current or past homelessness and 68% of women interviewed in 9 countries met the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).(1)
#2 Prostitution is a free choice made by consenting adults. Proponents of prostitution argue that women should have the right to make a living using her own body. On paper, the arguments may seem credible, but the reality of prostitution tells a different story. A survey of 169 women working in prostitution showed that the average age they were first sold for sex was 14, 75% reported being abused as children, 58% have been assaulted and an overwhelming 92% of women said they would quit if they could afford to. (2) No young girl grows up dreaming to be bought nightly and assaulted by strange men.
#3 If Prostitution was legalized, it would be safer. Regardless of prostitution’s status (legal, illegal or decriminalized) or its physical location (strip club, massage parlor, street, escort/home/hotel), prostitution is extremely dangerous for women. Homicide is a frequent cause of death…” (3) In fact, 37% of sex buyers think that once sex is paid for, women are obligated to do whatever the buyer wants (4) and the average life span of a woman being sold in the sex trade is 7 years. (5)
#4 Prostitution Prevents Rape. Some wrongly argue that prostitution prevents rape. But, given that the average age of entry into “the life” is between 11-14 years old (6) – buying sex is often times rape of a child. And even when the woman being bought is an adult, she likely has endured years of brutality. In fact, nearly a third of the sex buyers told surveyors that the acts they sought out from women in prostitution gradually changed and increased in violence, including more sadomasochistic sex acts and anal sex. One male sex buyer stated, “I have an easier time treating them worse.”(7) These men become increasingly violent and more prone to rape as they see a women more and more as an object to be used to gratify their lusts.
#5 Prostitution helps women earn income. There are plenty of profits being made by a multi-billion dollar sex industry, but most often, the girl being bought and sold for sex nightly sees none of it. The overwhelming majority of women involved in street prostitution live in poverty, are frequently homeless, and use drugs and alcohol as a way to numb themselves. The estimates for women who are under the control of a pimp are as high as 90%. (8) In one study, 80% of the pimps said that the girls and women did not keep any of the money they made so that the pimps “keep control” over their girls.
Statistically speaking, whether through the purchase of porn or a woman for the purposes of sex, she has been a childhood victim of sexual assault, physical neglect and abuse. She has entered the sex trade by manipulation or coercion as a child and feels trapped. She is not willing; nor reaps financial gains. Instead, the life she finds herself in is one of continued violence and desperation. If you have bought into the lie that this woman desires to fulfill your sexual compulsions, we invite you to see the truth today. We invite you to take action against the commercial sex industry by joining Defenders USA. We invite you to sign up for our next REST Training Day and hear from men who have been where you are and have been freed from sexual slavery.
Bridget Battistoni is Director of Operations for REST: Real Escape from the Sex Trade