Written by: Katie Linn | Previous Executive Director of Exploit No More
When working to end domestic child sex trafficking, it can often feel overwhelming in determining where to focus efforts and how to make the greatest impact. While there is a crucial need for services in all areas to end trafficking and in helping survivors on their road to recovery, one of the greatest needs is in addressing the demand for sex. As is true in any basic economic situation, the demand for a service or a product creates the need for a greater supply. If the demand for sex from sexually exploited children and prostitutes was eliminated, the traffickers would be out of a job and victims would not be exploited in this way.
One of the ways that states, as well as some other countries, have found effective in addressing demand is through what is known in the United States as ‘john school’, an educational intervention program for clients, known as ‘johns’, of prostitutes and sexually exploited children. These one day programs are typically for the men, and sometimes women, who have been arrested for soliciting a sexual service or for a similar offense. First time offenders are offered the option to either go to court or to attend the program and a smaller fine, which helps to fund the program and support local organizations working with victims and survivors of trafficking.
During this one day session, the focus of the discussions are often on the health dangers of purchasing sex, the violence associated with prostitution, the experience and the harms of prostitution, and the effects on families and communities. There are often a number of people to present, including law enforcement, medical professionals, and leaders within the community who work to fight trafficking and exploitation. In many cases, there will also be a survivor of trafficking or a former prostitute to testify about their own experience. For many men, they had not previously recognized the women’s victimization, believing that she was working out of her own free will. The survivor’s testimony is aimed at giving a realistic picture of the injustice that johns sometimes unknowingly support.
After the first john school was begun in San Francisco in 1995, the concept quickly spread throughout the United States and into other countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom. There has been some debate on how successful the diversion program has been and on how to best track success rates. From the data that has been collected, it is obvious that the programs have been able to greatly reduce the recidivism rate, with most cities hosting the program reporting that less than 2% of the men who took the course were re-arrested.
As demand is perhaps the largest area of this issue to tackle, programs such as john schools provide a solid starting point in attempting to prevent recidivism among men who solicit sex. While women make up the majority in the efforts to end sex trafficking, it is crucial for more men to step into leadership positions and take a stand against trafficking.
Exploit No More has been greatly encouraged in 2015 as we have seen a number of men take a particular interest in helping survivors of trafficking and in making a difference in addressing demand. From a men’s group donating food and personal items for victims and survivors to those who are stepping up to begin a men’s roundtable aimed at addressing demand, there are many ways men can be involved in this fight.
If you are interested in learning more about ways to get involved in addressing demand, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 414-384-6100.