On August 31, 2023, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office charged Dennis Ruoff, 49, with two counts of Trafficking in Individuals, Promoting Prostitution, Aggravated Indecent Assault and Indecent Assault, along with one count of Possession of a Controlled Substance with the Intent to Deliver. Ruoff’s is currently being held in Bucks County Correctional Facility with his bail set at $1,000,000.
Bensalem Township Police Special Investigations Unit responded to the Inn of the Dove in Bensalem, following a report of prostitution in room 114. When police knocked on the door, Ruoff and a female looked out the window but neither opened the door for the police. The room was secured by the officers pending a search warrant. A short time later, Ruoff opened the door and surrendered to police. At the time of his surrender, Ruoff had two outstanding warrants for previous arrests regarding unrelated drug charges.
When police entered the room, they discovered two women inside. During the investigation, the victims disclosed that Ruoff had supplied them with drugs and forced them to have sex with men whom they had met on an unnamed website. The victims told detectives that Ruoff used drugs as a bartering tool and alleged that the commercial sex acts they were told to perform acted as payment for the illicit substances. Additionally, one of the women alleged that Ruoff had assaulted her. Ruoff’s preliminary hearing is currently scheduled for September 28, 2023.
Victims of human trafficking and persons in prostitution often face intersecting vulnerabilities that are exploited by those who buy and sell them for sex. Factors like addiction, immigration status, economic need, and unstable living conditions are often exploited by traffickers to manipulate their victims into performing commercial sex acts. Survivors of human trafficking face criminalization for crimes other than prostitution, like retail theft and drug possession, which can prevent survivors from moving forward with their lives after leaving “the life.” Law enforcement should take care to look for and address these vulnerabilities when conducting operations designed to end the demand for commercial sex in their jurisdictions.
The CSE Institute applauds the Bensalem County District Attorney’s Office in its efforts to battle sex trafficking. By targeting the demand of sex buyers, law enforcement officials are also targeting the root cause of sexual exploitation. The CSE Institute stands with survivors and advocates for the adoption of the Equality Model in the United States, as commercial sexual exploitation is most effectively stopped by putting an end to demand. The Equality Model consists of four key elements: (1) decriminalization of the prostituted person, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and facilitators with a commitment to treating buying sex as a serious crime, (3) a public education campaign about the inherent harms of prostitution, and (4) funded, robust, holistic exit services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The Equality Model directly targets the demand for buying sex by criminalizing sex buyers and traffickers, while decriminalizing the people who are being bought and sold for commercial sex. The decriminalization of people in prostitution recognizes those who are bought and sold for sex as exploited, not as perpetrators of a crime.
This investigation along with Ruoff’s criminal proceedings are ongoing and the CSE Institute will continue to provide updates as these matters develop.
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 of Villanova University.