Cambridge MA, January 7, 2016—Demand Abolition, a national program working to reduce the demand for paid sex, applauds the unprecedented felony charges against a Seattle-area network of sex buyers brought by the King County Sherriff’s Office, the Bellevue Police Department, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the FBI. This action sends the clear message that sex buyers are the primary drivers of sex trafficking and need to be held accountable.
The local and federal authorities announced in Seattle today that they have brought felony charges against 12 men following the dismantling of a national online network that facilitates illegal commercial sex. As a result of the investigation, officials also closed a dozen brothels and freed 12 women who had been trafficked from South Korea and forced into prostitution.
“This is the first time that sex buyers who use these notorious online review sites are being charged with the felony offense of promoting prostitution. By posting reviews of people they’ve purchased and providing tips on how to buy, they are promoting and expanding this illegal and exploitative market,” said Lina Nealon, founding director of Demand Abolition. “The severity of the charges underscores the central role buyers play in causing so much harm to vulnerable people who are being sold for sex in cities and suburbs across this country.”
“Without the buyers’ money, pimps and traffickers would have no incentive to prey on women and children,” Nealon added. ”When you increase the risks for the buyers, you deter more of them and shrink this vicious market.”
The investigation centered on a group of high-frequency sex buyers who used the internet and social media to build and perpetuate a market for prostituted women in the Pacific Northwest. Organizers used the website TheReviewBoard.net and two other sites as platforms for sex buyers to share their experiences buying prostituted people, provide information on how to access secret brothels, and encourage members to visit specific prostituted persons—actions that law enforcement officials recognize as “promotion of prostitution,” a felony charge usually reserved for pimps and traffickers.
Leaders of the Seattle-based Organization for Prostitution Survivors also commended the crackdown against the buyers who create and use these review sites.
“Not once did a review board prevent me from being violated or have violence done against me. All these sites do is create an opportunity to sell more sex,” said Alisa Bernard, board member of OPS and a survivor of prostitution. “It all comes down to demand. If you want to end commercial sexual exploitation and its harms you have to go after the guys who buy it.”
About Demand Abolition
Demand Abolition is committed to eradicating illegal commercial sex in the United States by focusing on the buyers who fuel the sex trade. Working with a vast network of stakeholders, Demand Abolition is catalyzing a cultural shift to one that holds sex buyers accountable for fueling the sex trade, and provides vulnerable people opportunities beyond paid sexual exploitation. For more information, visit: demandabolition.org.