“No girl or woman would be a victim of sex trafficking if there were no profits to be made from their exploitation.”
-Luis CdeBaca, US Ambassador-at-Large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Mr. CdeBaca’s words illustrate the dark reality of sex trafficking. While supporting survivors of human trafficking is an essential service as part of a comprehensive approach to trafficking, it does not address the underlying systems and structures which allow sex trafficking to thrive in the United States and abroad. As long as there is demand for commercial sex, there will be a profit to be made from sex trafficking and pimps and traffickers will continue to enslave new victims no matter how many we are able to help break free. Demand reduction efforts seek to decrease the demand for commercial sex by increasing the penalties for traffickers and those who purchase sex (commonly referred to as johns), as well as increased educational efforts.
Demand reduction strategies are often paired with efforts to eliminate penalties associated with prostitution for victims of trafficking. This approach seeks to shift penalties and the risk associated with prostitution from victims of trafficking and other sex workers to traffickers, pimps and johns. From a victim services perspective, this breaks down barriers to reporting trafficking and seeking help. From a demand reduction stand point, this creates a larger risk which can deter johns from purchasing sex and create a less favorable cost-benefit ratio for traffickers.