Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Is Sex Trafficking Happening At Your Workplace?

Paula WIssel
An analysis by the King County Prosecutors office showed that most online solicitations of sex happened during work hours.

Sex trafficking of minors and others coerced into prostitution is only possible when there is a market. According to the advocacy group Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking, one way to stem that demand is to get workplaces involved.

Calls Made To Prostitutes From Office Phones

Alisa Bernard calls herself a prostitution survivor. She is going to college now. But, at a luncheon in downtown Seattle, she spoke to a group of business and government leaders and talked about having to sell her body to survive. She says when she was taking calls from men seeking “dates,” one call sticks in her mind.

She says the man was going into lurid detail about what he wanted when he suddenly told her to hold on.

“I heard a woman’s voice say, ‘When do you need those reports?’ and I realized he was calling me from his office,” Bernard said.

Apparently, that is not unusual. A recent study by the King County Prosecutors office showed that the peak time for online solicitation of sex is 2 p.m., a time when most people are at work.

A new effort by the Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking coalition aims to sign up more businesses for its employers alliance. One of the first to come on board was King County executive Dow Constantine.

He says it is about more than just reminding people that soliciting sex while you are at work is illegal. It is also about educating employees to be proactive in stopping sex trafficking.

“It could be the bus driver, the public health worker, any of our employees who interact with the public,” Constantine said.

He says employees will be trained so they know what to do and who to contact if they do see something that appears to be sex trafficking.

'We arrest teachers, pastors, executives'

King County reports that the 104 people arrested in recent years for soliciting sex from minors worked at all sorts of businesses.

“Most of those buyers that we’ve been arresting, they were working in professional industries well known to us,” said King County deputy prosecutor Val Richey. “They are tech workers, teachers, pastors, executives, lawyers, manufacturers and so on. We’ve caught them in work cars, we’ve caught them with work materials in the car that they ask for after they had been arrested.”

Demand For Underage Prostitutes Is Overwhelming'

The idea, according to the Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking coalition, is that when you limit sex buyers you put a dent in sex trafficking. But, it is a daunting task. King County deputy prosecutor Val Richey says when detectives put up fake on line ads posing as teens seeking sex, they routinely receive between 200 and 250 responses from guys in the first couple of hours.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 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.