Over the last decade we’ve watched the world’s newest technology enable the world’s oldest profession to flourish. Just as the Internet has put fashion and furniture in the hands of consumers without so much as a trip to the curb, Web sites like Craigslist, Backpage and TheEroticReview.com have put sex in the hands of johns without so much as a cruise down a dark alley. In 2010 alone, Craigslist brought in $44 million through its Adult Services ad department according to Robert Kolker’s June 29 New York Times story.
Technological innovations aside, the fundamentals of this illicit trade remain constant: the ubiquitous demand for the product and the sometimes fragile psychological profile of the supplier, who can herself be a survivor of physical or sexual abuse, a victim of sex trafficking, or struggling through poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, or single motherhood.
Reducing the scale of a problem that damages so many requires not only disrupting the supply chain but also restricting the market. Recent initiatives show progress on several fronts:
– In late July, the Federal Bureau of Investigation rounded up 159 men in a 70-city sweep and charged them with forcing 105 teenage girls into prostitution. Some 1,350 individuals have been convicted for pimping-related crimes in this 10-year offensive by the Justice Department. Ten of them have been sentenced to life in prison
– “We’ve Been There Done That,” a rehabilitation program for women convicted of prostitution, debuted in the Harris County Jail in Houston earlier this year. Under the direction of Kathryn Griffin, a former singer for Rick James who turned to prostitution after she became a cocaine addict, the program aims to prepare women to return to society by improving their self-esteem
– “Operation Flush the Johns,” completed in June in New York’s Nassau County, was an undercover online sting that led to the arrests of 104 would-be customers, ages 17 to 79 and from all economic strata