The Issue

The Problem: Commercial Sexual Exploitation

It’s happening here. It’s happening now.

Sex trafficking is a glaring problem in the United States, traumatizing thousands of women and children trapped in prostitution. In 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received over 3,000 reports of sex trafficking from all over the country.

Prostitution is not a victimless crime.

Prostitution, or commercial sexual exploitation, capitalizes on vulnerable women and children. Research shows that most prostituted people want to stop selling sex, but find it difficult to leave due to entrapment, trauma, social stigma, or the sense that there’s no other option.

The men who buy prostituted people, also known as “johns,” play a key role in perpetuating this notorious cycle. In addition to the harm often inflicted on the prostituted person, engaging in paid sex also harms the purchaser, his family, and the community. In our recent national survey, 64% of sex buyers in the United States said they want to stop.

The Solution: End Sex Buying

Men who buy sex create the “demand” that fuels the illegal sex trade. Without buyers, prostitution (and by extension sex trafficking) would cease to exist.

Our nationally-representative survey suggests that 6% of US men have bought sex in the past year. While the majority of men will never purchase a human being for sex, high-frequency buyers (who buy at least once a month) are responsible for three of every four transactions in the illegal sex trade. Learn more about sex buyers

Arresting prostituted persons, whom are often forced or coerced, has not and will never solve the problem; law enforcement and policies must target the buyers who drive this illegal and exploitative market. We must work with law enforcement to avoid penalizing and traumatizing those being exploited, deter men from buying, reduce rates of re-offending, and reserve significant penalties for dangerous and repeat offenders.

Our Approach

Demand Abolition is committed to eradicating the illegal commercial sex industry in the US by combating demand for purchased sex and increasing accountability for buyers. Learn more about the various components of our work below.

Survivor Informed

Survivor leaders strongly endorse buyer accountability strategies as an essential part of a victim-centered approach to combating sex trafficking. Demand Abolition’s policies and tactics are informed by our advisory board of survivor leaders. These women have a unique and intrinsically necessary perspective on how to eradicate demand for paid sex while reducing the harm to victims or survivors.

Rooted in Local Practice

Our CEASE Network (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation), a four-year multisector initiative in 12 cities, demonstrated that tactics to reduce demand and hold buyers accountable can be effective, scalable, and efficient. CEASE Network members catalyzed action in their communities, tested what worked, and spread best practices across the country. CEASE cities continue to collaborate informally and share lessons learned to halt sexual exploitation.

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Spurring Policy Change

Policy change is necessary on local, state, and federal levels to fully address the exploitation caused by sex trafficking and prostitution. We educate policymakers and partner with advocates to push forward innovative legislation to address demand for paid sex and end impunity for sex buyers.


We conduct groundbreaking research and analyze studies from the field to learn more about sex-buying and how to effectively deter buyers from continuing to fuel this exploitative market.

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