On May 2, 2019, a 33-year-old woman from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was found guilty of one count of prostitution by a jury. She was sentenced to a maximum of twelve months incarceration with credit for time served.
According to various media outlets, the woman was first arrested in February of 2018 after an undercover officer responded to her ad on Backpage.com, an online advertising website notorious for facilitating sex trafficking that has now been seized and shuttered by the federal government. The woman and the undercover officer met at the Classic Inn located on Lincoln Highway East. It was there that the woman agreed to engage in commercial sex with the undercover officer in exchange for $150. She was subsequently arrested.
The CSE Institute is discouraged by this woman’s conviction. Prostituted persons are not criminals; in fact, they are victims of an inherently violent and gender-based crime. Therefore, they should be offered social services and viable exit strategies, not criminal records. It is the hope of the CSE Institute that law enforcement will shift their focus from arresting prostituted persons to arresting sex buyers – it is the sex buyers who create the demand for commercial sex and, therefore, allow commercial sexual exploitation to flourish; they are the true perpetrators. By shifting their focus, law enforcement can take meaningful steps towards eradicating commercial sexual exploitation.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.