Study explores ‘demand’ for trafficking of children in Atlanta

ATLANTA, GA (WABE) – The principle that Supply and Demand drives commercial business can also be applied to the commercial sexual exploitation of children- or trafficking. To stop the supply,’ we need to address the demand, say advocates like Deborah Richardson, Chief Program officer for the Women’s Funding Network.

“The number of girls that are being exploited continues to increase – and the reason that continues to happen is because the demand for buying young girls in this country, very little attention is paid to it. And the internet has provided the anonymity and access to these girls like never before.”

The internet, according to studies by the Atlanta-based Schapiro Group, is the predominant marketplace for purchasing sex from young girls.

Commissioned by the Atlanta advocacy group, A future Not a Past, the Schapiro group also conducted a Demand study’ last fall, to get a better understanding who the johns’ are and where they’re coming from.

“We posted ads on a few different websites posing as a fake escort agency.”

Rusty Parker is senior strategist.

“The ads would say ‘call us tonight’ a phone number and picture of a girl who might look young.”

When men called in, he says, operators’ would survey them without their knowledge. From 218 usable surveys, they found the calls came from men ALL over metro Atlanta, and the average age was less than 40. And while many may not have been trolling for child prostitutes per say, more than half were willing to purchase sex from an adolescent girl.

Again Rusty Parker.

“We had a protocol in place to offer the ‘johns’ 3 opportunities to back out, this girl was under 18, she told me she’s 18 but i question that, things like that. we measured to see how many of these guys backed out after these warnings.”

After all three warnings says Parker, “We found that just about 50% say yes, that’s ok with me, send that girl over.”

No transactions were carried out.

While the demand study may represent a small piece of a huge pie, it’s one of very few studies out there. And advocates and sociologists like Carrie Baker, an associate professor at Berry College, believe it shows how acceptable it has become in our society for men to seek out younger and younger girls for sex.

“Our culture creates certain things as desirable and right now it’s focused on very young girls being desirable.”

Baker says the sexualization of girls in popular culture, makes it seem more normal for men to desire these young girls and then to act on that desire.

“Look at pop culture, music television, Nickelodeon and you’ll see cartoons geared toward kids where female characters dress very scantily and engage in strip teases. Go to a toy store, look at Brats dolls. They’re little hookers is what they are. They’re very sexualized, wearing very scantily clad clothes and all they talk about is how to attract men, how to be fashionable, how to be glamorous, how to be hot.”

Whether it’s toys, Miley Cyrus pole dancing, or teen shows like MTV’s Skins with explicit content, Baker, Richardson and others agree that the sexualization of youth in our culture contributes to the demand of child sex trafficking – and it needs to be stopped.

To view the study, visit www.womensfundingnetwork.org

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