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Targeting Sex Buyers: No More Sacrificing Our Kids

09-08-2014
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An estimated 100,000 American children are trafficked every year in the commercial sex industry. Experts believe one of the best ways to reduce these numbers is to shut down demand.

It's the reason that Shared Hope International, an anti-trafficking non-profit, and Arizona State University recently partnered to study those who buy children. 

"If we do not focus on the buyer, we have to sacrifice more of our children to the market of misery," Shared Hope founder Linda Smith said.

The study found that buyers who purchased sex acts with children are often getting away with their crime.

Researchers analyzed more than 100 buyers and found they are avoiding sex trafficking charges and facing lesser charges with more lenient penalties.

The study also found that 26 percent of those prosecuted served no time. Two-thirds of the guilty enjoyed suspended sentences and the average time served added up to just 18 months.

Kathleen McKee, a law professor at the Regent University School of Law, says buyers will not be deterred unless they face stronger penalties.

"There needs to be explicit statutes that say--this is the crime and if you're prosecuted for this, you will do the time," she said.

McKee also noted that the public needs to understand the consequences of buyers' behavior.

"Very often, the individuals who buy sex with children are very violent in their sexual encounters with the children, so children will be marked the rest of their lives by what is being done to them by the buyer," she said.

The question now is what kind of action will the states take?

Shared Hope has published the Demanding Justice Report, which documents what states have passed anti-demand laws and what states protect child victims from prosecution.

Activists hope that increasing awareness and tougher laws will help stop the growing business of paying for sex with children.

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