The ABC News investigative program Nightline has broadcast an in-depth look at the groundbreaking work of Seattle-area law enforcement in confronting the demand for prostitution.
The program, hosted by journalist Juju Chang, highlights the work of King County Prosecutor Valiant Richey, who is also coordinator of the local branch of the CEASE Network (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation). CEASE was launched three years ago by Demand Abolition, and operates in a dozen cities nationwide.
The segment, broadcast nationally on Tuesday night, focuses on the sting operation staged earlier this year by Washington State law enforcement to break up the “buyer review boards,” where sex buyers rate and promote women who are being prostituted. This is the first such operation in which review board members are being charged with a felony for promoting, rather than just soliciting, prostitution. Prosecutors argue that these boards are creating and encouraging demand.
“Most people in prostitution are exploited, so criminalizing them doesn’t make a lot of sense from a moral perspective. It also just doesn’t work from a criminal justice perspective,” Richey said. “At the same time, we understand … the exploitation that is driven through sex buying is caused by the buyer. And so the buyer needs to be held accountable.”
The Nightline segment shows a dramatic undercover police operation and captures rare footage of review board members talking about the kind of women they prefer to buy for sex.
“Anything from a war-torn country,” one man says.
Prostitution survivor turned activist Alisa Bernard, who used to work through the online review boards, said they didn’t keep her safe and caused her to take more risks.
Bernard explained that a bad review could have a huge impact on business, giving the clients too much power.
“I had been raped multiple times. I was held against my will at least once. I was strangled, and these were all by Review Board guys so, you know, again, your line keeps getting pushed further and further and further to get those good reviews.”
Asked why he thinks he can stop the “world’s oldest profession,” Richie responds to Chang: “I would say it’s the oldest oppression. The one way we can eliminate it is to help men realize that this isn’t serving them either.”
Alex Trouteaud, Director of Policy and Research for Demand Abolition, said, “The Nightline program provides a showcase for the nationwide movement that is shifting the way we think about sex trafficking and forced prostitution. The ABC report makes clear that the way to end this abuse is by tackling the demand. No buyers, no business.”
Watch the full program here.