Letter: Buyers should pay the price for trafficking

A basic tenet of economics is that demand drives business. But the heart of the sex industry is the very real lives of girls, boys, men and women whose lives are forever damaged by rape, violence, forced drug use and emotional trauma.

Programs like Alternatives For Girls have been serving victims of human trafficking for decades. Additional funding is needed to expand housing, therapeutic care, job training and long-term support options. The funding for programs like this starts with generous individuals and strong government and foundation support, but it should also come from those driving the sex industry: the buyers.

A state tax on strip clubs and pornography — while increasing penalties for strip clubs allowing prostitution and for individuals found soliciting — could substantially contribute to the funding needed to support human trafficking victims as they attempt to recover and rebuild their lives.

Legislation can be written to provide funding to the programs without any cost to taxpayers who are not contributing to the sex industry. A recent human trafficking law passed in Connecticut instills harsher penalties for those convicted of purchasing sex, and places new requirements on hotels to recognize and report suspected trafficking of women and children.

The law mandates training for all hotel and motel staff to recognize victims and indications of human trafficking, and will require them to keep records of all guest transactions. The Connecticut law also defines new penalties aimed at curbing demand. According to the New Haven Register, there is now a mandatory $2,000 fine for convicted buyers of sex, and accused buyers or alleged sex traffickers can no longer use a “mistake of age claim to argue in court that they did not know the age of the sex worker to avoid harsher penalties that come with trafficking minors.”

Michigan should follow Connecticut’s example by creating a similar law. It would help prevent sex trafficking, as well as create more funding to support human trafficking victims through fines collected from those purchasing sex.

Deena Policicchio, Alternatives For Girls