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Buyers Of Underage Sex Get Little Jail Time, New Study Shows

Arizona State University/Shared Hope International

Men who are convicted of paying for sex with minors are unlikely to serve much time behind bars, says the finding of new research conducted by Arizona State University and released by Shared Hope International, an organization trying to stop sex trafficking.

The study examined 134 cases in Seattle, Phoenix, Portland and Baltimore-Washington, D.C.

Washington was actually the first state in the nation to pass a specific law against the trafficking of children under the age of 18 for sex.

And the findings show that the Seattle metro area has the highest felony conviction rate in the country for buyers who purchased sex acts with children.

And yet, even in Seattle, the median time served by men convicted was less than three months.

“Now, that’s pretty low. You can have shoplifting crimes and other crimes that are not crimes against vulnerable children and serve not much more time than that.” said Linda Smith, a former Washington state congresswoman who founded Shared Hope International

Smith doesn’t blame prosecutors who plead charges down or judges who give light sentences as much as the culture, which she says accepts things like hiring a prostitute for a bachelor party or celebrating a guy’s  21st birthday with a visit to a strip club. 

“Men can try to think in their head that some woman would really like to be victimized by them, but it is victimization," Smith said.

The report on the conviction rate for buyers of sex with minors included an interesting graph showing a change in King County, seen above.

Back in 2009, it was the minors selling sex who were being prosecuted. Now, with very few exceptions, it’s the men soliciting sex from teens who are being targeted.

Credit Arizona State University/Shared Hope International
Arizona State University/Shared Hope International

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.