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H.E.A.T. Watch – Stop Human Exploitation and Trafficking

Alameda County H.E.A.T. Watch Tip Line:
Office of the District Attorney, Alameda County
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

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Why focus on Demand?

While sexual exploitation and trafficking are complex issues, one fact is clear – the driving force behind sex trafficking is demand. Without people willing to pay for sex, traffickers have no incentive to lure vulnerable men, women and children into the illegal sex trade. Remove the buyers and the whole system stops.

Research suggests¹ that one of the most effective methods of reducing the illegal sex trade is to reduce the demand for it by targeting those who purchase sex. This is because, unlike traffickers, many people who buy sex hold places of respect in their communities, have full-time jobs, families, committed relationships, and reputations to protect.

Who are the Purchasers?

One in seven American men over the age of 18—or 15 million people—have admitted to buying someone for sex. Men who solicit sex most regularly online are typically white, married, and earning over $120,000 a year.

We must encourage these men to consider how they will feel:

  • If their wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, boss, co-workers or friends find out they bought sex
  • If the person they purchased for sex is underage, making them guilty of a felony
  • If the person they purchased for sex is an abused, runaway child with a violent pimp
  • If the person they purchased is not selling sex voluntarily but was being beaten, blackmailed or forced

Most of all, we must get these men to question if purchasing sex is inherently dehumanizing.

  1. What is the average age and income of a person who routinely buys sex via the internet?
    A study of buyers on The Erotic Review suggests that the typical buyer is between 50 and 59 years old; only about 20% are under 40.[1] The average buyer is likely to be well-educated and wealthy; over 41% have a graduate degree and over 43% claim to make more than $120,000 per year.[2]
  2. What is the average number of times a day a prostituted person’s body is bought?
    An average is hard to calculate since we do not have any nationally representative samples. One study found the range to be anywhere from 2 times up to 50 times per day.[3]
  3. What is the average age of first-time sex buyers?
    A comprehensive Canadian study suggests that buyers start to purchase sex at age 28 (and that they, on average, have been involved in the sex industry for 15 years).[4] An American study indicates that buyers in the US are typically between 18 and 29 when they first pay for sex.[5]
  4. What percentage of the American population has ever bought sex?
    One of the most reliable figures we have is that 14% of men—or more than 21 million men in total—have bought sex.[6].
  5. What percentage of the American population buys sex regularly?
    The best estimate is that 1% of American men buy sex on a regular basis, defined as at least once per year. [7] However, the frequency varies greatly. The same Canadian study suggests that the most extreme buyers pay for sex 7,500 times over their lifetime, with the typical buyer purchasing sex 100 times.[8]

Efforts to Reduce Demand

City of Oakland:

In 2015, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) found that 61% of sex buyers in Oakland lived outside the city limits. To target sex buyers, OPD created the Dear John letter campaign. Dear John Letters enable members of the community to report instances of drivers soliciting prostitution.

Additionally, in 2016, the Oakland CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) Task Force made a commitment to reduce the demand for commercial sex by 20% over the next two years.

H.E.A.T. Watch and the CEASE Network: The CEASE Network (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation) is a collaboration of pioneering cities committed to reducing sex-buying and trafficking by 20 percent in two years. This multi-city initiative, conceptualized and supported by Demand Abolition, a program of Hunt Alternatives, focuses on deterring sex buyers and cutting off sex trafficking at its financial source. H.E.A.T. Watch serves as the Coordinating unit for the Oakland/Alameda County region. For more information on the CEASE Network, visit their website.