Shared Hope International Releases New Study on Demand Deterrence, Enforcement, and Justice for Victims
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Sex trafficking is a crime unlike any other. It is one of the only crimes that allows a perpetrator to criminalize the victim by paying to commit the offense. In 36 states, including Arizona, child victims of sex trafficking can be charged with prostitution. Yet, historically, the criminals who make their victimization profitable—the buyers—walk free. But new research released today by Shared Hope International reveals that Arizona’s progressive efforts to stem demand makes the state an increasingly risky place for buyers.
“We’re seeing great activity and progress, but until buyers are serving serious jail time for their crime, we have a significant gap in our response,” Linda Smith, President and Founder of Shared Hope International said. “We want buyers to be terrified to shop for sex in Arizona and I believe the team in Arizona can make that possible if they remain relentless in their pursuit of that goal.”
The Demanding Justice Arizona Field Assessment documents the state’s attitudes and efforts to deter demand, enforce laws against buyers, and enable victim’s access to justice. Findings show that Arizona has made advancements in the following key areas:
- Collaboration among law enforcement, prosecutors, service providers, media and community organizations drives a unified, cross-jurisdictional response to channel resources and information effectively.
- Proactive enforcement sting operations punish offenders and cultivate an environment of increased fear and impending risk for buyers.
- Financial penalties for buyers were funding victim services. This resourceful approach provides meaningful consequences for offenders—fines—while enabling much-needed services for victims.
- Training and educational opportunities are widely available, advancing the scope and sophistication of anti-demand efforts.
While the state has seen great success, stakeholders expressed a desire to shift more serious attention to male sex trafficking survivors, establish a stigma of zero tolerance for the crime, and increase buyer accountability through meaningful sentences and penalties. Study participants reported that a lack of jury appeal was often attributed to the high prevalence of buyer cases that concluded in plea deals, which can result in less severe sentences. Today, Arizona leaders are convening at the Next Steps Summit to discuss these findings and build a strategy to end demand for child sex trafficking victims. Local professionals will have the opportunity to work collectively to address these key issues. Shared Hope also released Buyers Beware: Mobilizing to End Demand, a new video to inspire law enforcement and prosecutor prioritization of buyer cases.
This research is an initiative of the Demanding Justice Project, a research and advocacy initiative designed to promote demand deterrence through increased attention and advocacy on demand related issues. The Demanding Justice Report explores national trends in the enforcement of anti-demand laws and www.demandingjustice.org documents convicted buyers in each state.
Communications Director, Shared Hope International
ABOUT SHARED HOPE INTERNATIONAL: Shared Hope International leads a worldwide effort to prevent, restore, and bring justice women and children exploited through sex trafficking. For more information about Shared Hope International, visit www.sharedhope.org.