Boston takes a stand against commercial sexual exploitation

Posted by on March 6, 2015 in CEASE Network

The city of Boston announced its participation in the CEASE Network (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation) at an emotion-charged  news  conference led by  Mayor Martin Walsh on Friday, March 6. Boston joins Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix, and seven other major metropolitan areas in this national campaign to reduce sex-buying by 20% in two years.

“Human beings, particularly women and children, are being bought for sex in our own neighborhoods,” Walsh told a standing-room-only crowd at Boston City Hall. “In Boston we will not tolerate this illegal and exploitative industry that deprives vulnerable people of their basic human rights and funds a predatory business often tied to gangs and organized crime.”

A collaborative, survivor-led effort

In keeping with the CEASE Network model, CEASE Boston brings together survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking, community members, government and police officials, and local business leaders to reduce commercial sexual exploitation in their city by focusing on the buyers.

Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Founder and Chair of Demand Abolition—the Cambridge-based nonprofit that conceived and supports the CEASE Network—said her organization is proud to serve as the nexus for so many dedicated people, especially those who have witnessed the harms of the sex industry first-hand.

“Our efforts in this movement are all survivor-led, because that’s who we’re talking about today—these are leaders, not victims.” she said. “It’s a great honor to work alongside them.”

Swanne Walsh Healy

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Mayor Martin Walsh, and Ambassador Swanee Hunt

One such leader is Audrey Morrissey, prostitution survivor and associate director of My Life My Choice, an advocacy group that empowers sexually exploited girls and at risk youth.

“I was brought into the commercial sex industry as a teenage girl,” she told the crowd in an impassioned speech. “This is not a life that women and girls choose. This is violence against women and children, and we’re tired of buyers being let off the hook.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who has long been involved with efforts to end domestic and sexual violence against women, equated prostitution with modern-day slavery and said her office would continue to fight it, in all its forms.

“I was recently asked my feelings on the legalization of prostitution, to which I replied, ‘No way, no how,’” she said. “You can’t tell me that people sold into this industry as children, or those who are desperate and see no other way to get by, are exercising their free will. This is a crime of violence—a crime of exploitation that impacts and further subjugates people who were already vulnerable to begin with.”

A focus on demand


Audrey Morrissey gives an impassioned speech at the CEASE Boston launch

As Healey and Morrissey mentioned, many people within the sex trade have suffered past sexual abuse, are dealing with issues of addiction or homelessness, or feel like they have few other options to survive. By offering support to prostituted people who want to exit—and arrest records and education for those who are caught buying sex—Boston and its fellow CEASE Network cities are part of a growing movement that recognizes the most effective way to eliminate the harms of the underground sex industry is to put pressure on the buyers who  fund it.

“Far too many young women are victimized by this harmful and destructive cycle. The Boston Police Department is committed to working closely with CEASE Boston and fully support their efforts,” said Boston Police Chief William Evans. “If we don’t reduce the demand for paid sex, we’re never going to get on top of this issue.”