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“Flushing the Johns” Is A Welcome Change From Arresting Sex Workers

“Flushing the Johns” Is A Welcome Change From Arresting Sex Workers

A recent sting in New York’s Nassau County nabbed 104 johns. The county announced the arrests on June 3rd, but it didn’t stop there. It also released the names and photographs of all the suspects.

Kudos to Nassau County because, as District Attorney Kathleen Rice said, women who are sex workers ‘too often remain the prime targets in prostitution investigations while the johns who fuel the exploitation are treated as mere witnesses.’” The numbers back her up. “In 2011, three times [more] women and girls were arrested for prostitution in New York than pimps and buyers,” writes Lauren Hersh of Equality Now. But it is the buyers who perpetuate the harm.

Not that all sex workers feel harmed. Some have joined COYOTE, an organization that advocates legalizing prostitution and pimping. That’s great for people who chose to be sex workers of their own volition.

But COYOTE also calls for legalizing ‘pandering,’ which COYOTE defines as “encouraging someone to work as a prostitute.” Encouragement can be hard to distinguish from coercion, especially when the target is already vulnerable. Kids who have run away from home, especially if they were fleeing sexual abuse, can wind up prostituting themselves to please someone else, someone who provides them with food and a roof over their heads.

Or they may not have a choice. When one girl was raped at age 12, she turned to a man who said he would take care of her. Then he beat and raped her. Then he sold her for sex and the buyers raped her. Police arrested her.

Prosecuting that child for prostitution would be one more violation against her. Arresting johns instead, as Nassau County did, punishes the bad guys, not the victims. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a john is a victim; that makes it hard to imagine why other jurisdictions aren’t switching their focus away from catching sex workers and going after johns instead.

Nassau County’s month-long sting, named “Operation Flush the Johns,” reeled people in with an online ad. In one month, in one county, with one ad, cops caught 104 men. Add the people who picked up sex workers on the street or responded to different ads in different places, and the scope of prostitution gets to looking pretty big, which it is. “Thousands of women and children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in New York State annually,” Equality Now reports.

New York is working on doing something about it. This month the state Assembly is considering the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act. The proposed legislation, which the state Senate has already passed,

improves the State’s efforts to end human trafficking by enhancing protection for trafficking victims—particularly for sexually exploited children. It increases accountability for buyers and traffickers who are fueling the growth of this massive underground industry and it helps prevent re-victimization of trafficking victims by the justice system.

The current legislative session ends June 20th. The Assembly should pass it now so the blame is properly placed on the people who exploit and abuse others for sex and profit and not on their victims.

As for those 104 johns, they are not going quietly or with dignity. Every one of them pleaded not guilty. One of their lawyers attacked Nassau County, complaining, “these individuals have been humiliated, and now their families will be humiliated, too.” Well, yeah. That is one of the risks you run when you pay for sex. If you don’t want to be humiliated, don’t choose to do humiliating things.

The sad thing is how shocked they seem. It should be routine for them to be targeted by law enforcement, as sex workers are now. New York state may make it happen. Give it a nudge: sign our petition.

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6:33AM PDT on Oct 24, 2013

Not a recent article, but the petition's still open so I guess the PVTJ Act hasn't been passed yet; gave it a nudge.

10:29AM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

This is a really positive shift in the way law enforcement treats the sex trade. Well done Nassau County. This is the way it always should have been.

12:16AM PDT on Aug 11, 2013

It's about time they went after the 'Johns.' I always thought it was strange that they never did the time, when they also were involved in breaking the law!!

2:56PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

We can end most of this INSANITY by legalizing heavily regulated brothels in more states than just Nevada, and the minimum age for women or gigolo's to work in them could be 26. I don't know about some, but most people can tell the difference between an adolescent and an adult over the of age 26. The brothels could also be taxed and the workers would be required to take drug test and have a human resources department available to them just like any other profession in America, and the workers will be able to come and go as they please especially since they will be working on comission like they do in Nevada's rural county brothels. So there you have it, and if someone responds negatively to my post I'll just ignore you!

12:01PM PDT on Jul 5, 2013

Yes, this is a welcome change.

12:10PM PDT on Jul 2, 2013


7:18PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013


2:28PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Several counties in Nevada have legalized the world's oldest profession. Makes sense to me rather than spending all this money chasing down prostitutes and johns.

2:18PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

it is about time this is doneWhy is thephoto of a women's ass in handicuffs instead of some John trying to hide?? wrong so wrong

7:53AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Thank you Piper, for Sharing this!

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