On January 29th, Ruben Saldana Perez, 47, was arraigned, by District Judge Kevin Wagner, on charges alleging that he offered money to a 15-year-old girl in exchange for sexual photos as well as sexual acts. The charges include trafficking in minors, promoting prostitution, sexual exploitation of children, filming a child sex act, statutory sexual assault, criminal use of a communications facility, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with someone younger than the age of 16, and indecent assault of someone younger than the age of 16.
According to Bristol Township police, on January 28th, Perez sent naked images of himself and requested that the 15-year-old girl send naked images of her in response. Perez is alleged to have offered $200 in exchange for sexually explicit photos and $500 in exchange for her performance of sexual acts. Perez is also alleged to have known the victim. The solicitation allegedly commenced through text messages on January 28th, 2021. Charges were filed against Perez on January 29th, 2021. At this time, a preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 16th, 2021. As of February 2nd, 2021, Perez remains in Bucks County Prison.
We commend Bristol Township police and the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office for targeting and charging Perez for his alleged attempt to purchase a child for sex. It is critical that the demand for commercial sex acts, especially of children, be treated as a serious crime of violence. Only by targeting the demand for paid sex will the frequency with which individuals are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation be reduced. It is for this reason that the CSE Institute advocates for the Equality Model and takes an abolitionist approach to the commercial sex trade. We believe that the Equality Model is the only paradigm that benefits those exploited through the commercial sex trade by decriminalizing the sale of sex while providing vital resources to assist exploited individuals leaving the life. We believe the Equality Model properly shifts the focus of criminalization from prostituted persons to sex buyers and traffickers. By limiting demand, we believe this legal framework effectively decreases exploitation of women and children and protects vulnerable populations from violence.
In 2019, prostituted persons were still charged at a much higher frequency than sex buyers throughout Pennsylvania. If we wish to extinguish sexual exploitation and sex trafficking from the state of Pennsylvania, law enforcement must rigorously target the demand for sex and properly treat sexually exploited individuals as victims undeserving of criminalization.
We note that Pennsylvania’s Safe Harbor law exists to protect child victims of sex trafficking and provide services to assist child victims. The Safe Harbor law provides criminal immunity to sexually exploited children and represents a commitment to treating sexually exploited children as victims of child abuse, not criminals. We commend law enforcement in this case for recognizing the victimization of the child targeted by Perez.
The CSE Institute would like to note that almost half of all traffickers of minors use the internet to advertise their victims and communicate with sex buyers. According to the FBI, there are currently an estimated 293,000 American children at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex, the majority being between the ages of 12 and 14. Research released in 2018 revealed 92% of active, high-frequency buyers in the U.S. had browsed online for paid sex. It is critical for parents, guardians, caretakers, and law enforcement to have a heightened awareness of the prevalence of sexual predators online.
The CSE Institute commends the Bristol Township police department for their investigation into Perez which led to an arrest. It is critical that law enforcement actively work to reduce the demand for commercial sex while providing victims the support and resources that they need.