A recent sting in New York’s Nassau County nabbed 104 johns. The county announced the arrests on June 3rd, but it didn’t stop there. It also released the names and photographs of all the suspects.
Kudos to Nassau County because, as District Attorney Kathleen Rice said, “women who are sex workers ‘too often remain the prime targets in prostitution investigations while the johns who fuel the exploitation are treated as mere witnesses.’” The numbers back her up. “In 2011, three times [more] women and girls were arrested for prostitution in New York than pimps and buyers,” writes Lauren Hersh of Equality Now. But it is the buyers who perpetuate the harm.
Not that all sex workers feel harmed. Some have joined COYOTE, an organization that advocates legalizing prostitution and pimping. That’s great for people who chose to be sex workers of their own volition.
But COYOTE also calls for legalizing ‘pandering,’ which COYOTE defines as “encouraging someone to work as a prostitute.” Encouragement can be hard to distinguish from coercion, especially when the target is already vulnerable. Kids who have run away from home, especially if they were fleeing sexual abuse, can wind up prostituting themselves to please someone else, someone who provides them with food and a roof over their heads.
Or they may not have a choice. When one girl was raped at age 12, she turned to a man who said he would take care of her. Then he beat and raped her. Then he sold her for sex and the buyers raped her. Police arrested her.
Prosecuting that child for prostitution would be one more violation against her. Arresting johns instead, as Nassau County did, punishes the bad guys, not the victims. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a john is a victim; that makes it hard to imagine why other jurisdictions aren’t switching their focus away from catching sex workers and going after johns instead. [More…]