Are Prostitution-Related Sex Crimes Part of Human Sex Trafficking?

by dmatson on September 9, 2013

Many people consider prostitution and related sex offenses “victimless” crimes, a sort of agreement between two or more people to enter into a criminal business arrangement where no one get hurt. But increasingly, states are treating the oldest profession in the world as part of the larger sex trafficking phenomena, changing the way prostitution cases move through the justice system.

An in-depth piece in the Washington Post recently looked at this phenomena, where women arrested for prostitution are more likely to be treated as victims in need of assistance and the men who pay for their services or “pimp” them as actors in the same sex trafficking trade that kidnaps children, selling them into the dark underbelly of the global sex trafficking system.

“It’s almost similar to a domestic violence issue,” said Michal Anton of the Cook County Sheriff’s vice unit in Chicago. He explains that most people think prostitutes can just “get out” of the business, but it isn’t always that easy.

Manipulation, drug addiction, and a created dependence on their pimp makes it difficult for women to get out of the sex trade once they are in it.

In Illinois, sex crime penalties are shifting. Courts are increasingly seeking to help prostitutes with addiction and mental health issues while increasing penalties against pimps and “johns”.

“We’ve got this idea of an ideal victim – someone who is physically locked in a room, chained up . and who makes no money,” says Catherine Longkumer, an attorney in Chicago who helps women get out of the prostitution industry.

In Chicago, johns can face serious fines (up to $2,150) for soliciting a prostitute. Anton says his unit has never arrested the same customer twice, evidence that something is working.

No longer are prostitutes and johns seen as operating on the same level. For most courts, prostitutions are more likely to get the offer of help while johns are likely to have the book thrown at them. In New York for instance, women with prostitution arrests on their record can work to get that record expunged if they can prove they were coerced into the trade.

It’s true that many women charged with prostitution are in need of help—mental health counseling, drug rehabilitation, and more—but, men arrested for soliciting may be fighting their own battles with addiction. Either way, if you are charged with a sex crime in Illinois, New York, or anywhere else, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer advocating for your best interests in court.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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