Secret service, sex buyers, and sex trafficking victims

The secret service scandal reveals the fundamental hypocrisy behind the U.S. effort to combat sex trafficking and prostitution of women and children. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2012 — It is appalling to watch secret service agents buying sex from women with U.S. taxpayers’ money. It’s much worse though, when victims and women receive no justice while these men get a slap on their wrists.

The secret service scandal underscores the hypocritical approach of the U.S. government to fight global sex trafficking of women and children.  The L.A. Times reported recently that the U.S. government fired three more Secret Service agents as a result of hiring prostitutes during the Summit of Americas in early April.  This brings the total to half a dozen agents who saw their careers cut short from the widening investigation of alleged misconduct.

Though the prostitution scandal occurred within the tolerance zone where prostitution is permissible in Columbia, this does not justify the secret service men from purchasing sex with the taxpayers’ dollars. Most importantly, the Secret Service code of conduct specifically forbids the secret service agents from buying sex from anyone in anywhere around the world.

 Some advocates argue that tackling demand is vital to end sex trafficking and prostitution in the U.S. “John school” is a program that they offer as a solution to tackle demand.

‘John School’ is an eight hour-long program to educate first time offender of soliciting prostitution. In exchange of finishing an educational program, authorities expunge the criminal record of men for their solicitation of prostitution. 

The John School curriculum includes educational materials on sexual disease and sex trafficking of women in brothels.

Many studies support that the program successfully combats prostitution and sex trafficking. It says that the program is easily transferable to any city around the country. Since the first john school was open in San Francisco in 1995, 12 other sites in the U.S. have successfully replicated the program.

The Chicago Alliance against Sexual Exploitation says that john school program is based on a logically sound model. According to its research, 41% of the buyers of sex in Chicago said that John school would deter them from prostituting women.

The study also states that the program is financially feasible. For the past 12 years, the program operated at no cost to taxpayers and “generated nearly $1 million to benefit recovery programs for survivors” of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Many researchers agree that the program effectively has reduced recidivism rates of first time buyers. Researchers say that San Francisco case showed a significant decrease in recidivism following the creation of john school.

Critics, however, question the methodology of ‘John School’. They also say that buyers of sex deserve harsher punishment. According the survey on 103 buyers of sex in London, most of the buyers say that “they would be easily deterred from seeking prostitutes if the laws were enforced.” 

Most of them said that fines, public exposure, and employers’ knowledge of their commercial sexual exploitation will stop them from prostituting women. Learning that women were trafficked, pimped or coerced would not be an effective deterrent.

Critics argue that ‘John School’ has no effect on reducing the demand to buy sex. It only makes buyers of sex more lucrative in their search of commercial sexual exploitation. According to one survey of 103 buyers of sex in London, men buy sex even if the prostituted women are victims of trafficking. 

The study says that 48% of the men believed that most women in prostitution are victims of pimps or traffickers. 55% of the buyers of sex said that they believed most of prostituted women have been trafficked, tricked, or lured. Despite their awareness of the women being trafficked, only five out of 103 men said that they reported their suspicions to the authority.

Many johns also showed their lack of concern for abuse of prostituted women. When asked about their attitudes towards women in prostitution, most of the men believed that prostitutes are un-rapeable since any sexual acts including rape is paid and consensual service. 16% of the men said that they would rape a woman if they could without facing the criminal consequences.

Researchers also concluded that many of the men believe that the women they buy “have no rights in the interaction.”

U.S. society must realize that people do not commercially exploit women and children because they are lonely or their wives do not satisfy their sexual desires. They prostitute women and children because they can. Policymakers realize that a program like ‘John School” is not the ultimate solution.

But, it is a very small step to the right direction. 


Youngbee Dale is a writer, researcher, and human rights advocate. She invites you to join her on Google+Facebook, or Twitter


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Youngbee Dale

Youngbee Dale graduated from Regent University with Master’s degree in International Politics in 2009. While at Regent, she interned at World Bank and co-contributed to a human trafficking publication, “Setting the Captives Free” by Olivia McDonald (2007). She also worked with migrant workers and human trafficking victims in South Korea. Currently, she stays home with her three-month-old son to exercise the divine rights to mother and breastfeed him. 

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