The Buyers and Their Role in Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking, like any other business model, is based on supply and demand. Sex trafficking is an extremely lucrative business in Houston because there is a large demand from men to buy sex (as noted by Free the Captives’ research).
Sex trafficking requires three parties: a supplier, a buyer, and the product. In human trafficking, the suppliers are the traffickers or the pimps, the buyers are the men who purchase sex (aka Johns), and the products are human beings used for sex slavery. Human trafficking is highly lucrative. When criminals sell guns or drugs, those commodities can only be sold once. However, a young girl can be sold over and over again – in one night. There are seven nights of the week that she can be sold. Unfortunately, there is an endless supply of young, vulnerable girls that traffickers can prey upon.
There is only a supply of girls because of the demand from buyers. Fundamentally, the buyers are a major cause for sex trafficking. If men did not want to buy sex, traffickers would not be enslaving children and women. Traffickers are in this business because men want to buy sex.
In the beginning, as Free the Captives worked with teen victims, it did not take long for us realize that it was not enough to just help the girls. We had to do something about the demand. If we don’t fight sex trafficking at its root, it will be a never ending battle of helping enslaved girls.
Thus, since 2011, we have launched our successful campaign to end the demand. With the help of our supporters, we organized a massive letter writing campaign to local and state officials. Over 15,000 letters were mailed. We also had an effective billboard, TV and radio campaign in partnership with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office that warned the buyers about the consequences of their actions. Through our partnership with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, there has been an increase in the number of men arrested for buying sex. Overall, our work has helped the public and legislators to shift the focus onto the buyers, raised awareness to potential buyers, and increased the number of buyers arrested.