Boston Herald: Opioid crisis fueling region’s sex trade

Posted by on March 17, 2017 in News, Success Stories

The Boston Herald has published a powerful and carefully researched two-part special report on how the opioid epidemic fuels the sex trafficking industry.

Over two days, the paper covered its front page with images and headlines capturing the brutality of the sex trade and its direct ties to drug abuse in Boston. In her series of articles and videos, Herald columnist Jessica Heslam focused a glaring spotlight on the role of sex buyers in driving this crime.

“This is an industry that is driven by demand. If people weren’t buying sex, the industry would dry up and go away, dry up and go away,“ Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey told the Herald.

Healey said that because of that demand, “Human traffickers are literally targeting and preying upon women, in particular who are drug addicted. It’s so sad because traffickers will literally line up outside clinics and try to lure women into this industry with promises of drugs.“

The drug dealers and gangs use the drugs to keep the women addicted and under pimp’s control. Gangs have been turning to sex trafficking because they know they can sell a woman many times during a single day but can only sell drugs once.

Heslam details a few of the strategies Boston and Massachusetts use to fight sex trafficking. The articles and videos explain how Healey’s office and the Boston Police Department are increasingly taking a demand-centered approach to fighting prostitution.

Heslam quoted Dhakir Warren, senior manager of social innovation at Demand Abolition, as saying the problem is in the suburbs as well as big cities. Warren said buyers often use their work computers in the middle of the day to search online for buying sex. “If we can combat the demand, we are able to effectively reduce the need for supply.”

As technology has made the cell phone the brothel of the 21st century, sex trafficking is moved off the street corner and onto the web. Because technology has made it harder to find these men, cities have learned to adapt – often with the support of the CEASE Network, which was launched by Demand Abolition in 2015.

In Boston, Seattle, Houston and other cities that are part of CEASE (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation), we’ve seen a paradigm shift in how police are attacking sex exploitation. The cities are developing new ways to combat prostitution, whether it’s conducting stings of men trying to buy sex online or infiltrating illicit massage parlors, they’re going after the buyers, the people who fuel this exploitive industry. These cities understand that no buyers means no business.

Boston Police Department Lieutenant Donna Gavin, a CEASE Boston coordinator, pointed out that most of the men come from the suburbs, have college degrees and careers so they are “able to drop $200 a few times a week at lunchtime or after work before they go home.”

Some cities have started to fine men who have been arrested trying to buy sex. These fines are used to help fund victim services. “’ We’re not going to arrest our way out of this,’ Lieutenant Gavin said. ‘The demand is such that we have to find other ways. ‘”

There is a small but vocal opposition that insists prostitution is either consensual or it’s victimless crime. But when you read the stories of the prostitution survivor or a pimp turned preacher you realize it is neither. You read those stories, a just wonder how many other people looking for a way out.