On May 23, 2022, Jessica Bauer, 43, and Eric Scelza, 47, were charged in an undercover prostitution sting in Stroudsburg, PA.
According to media reports, the sting was designed to catch Bauer, who posted advertisements selling sex. She also had an outstanding warrant, and investigators believed that she was using drugs. Officials stated that an undercover agent reached out to Bauer to meet at the Bridge Views Inn in Stroudsburg. When the officer arrived, Bauer was showing Scelza out of her room. Bauer later revealed that Scelza was a repeat customer.
The officer then arrested and charged Bauer with promoting prostitution, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a controlled substance. Scelza was charged with patronizing prostitutes. Bauer is being held at the Monroe County Correctional Facility on an unrelated matter, and Scelza was released. Both are set to appear in court at a later date.
Although the CSE Institute applauds the efforts of the Monroe County investigators for arresting Scelza, it is imperative law enforcement understands that those selling sex should not be arrested in an investigation as part of a program to end the sex trade. Sexual exploitation is rooted in inequality, racism, and sexism. To end the exploitation of persons in prostitution, it is, therefore, essential to focus criminalization solely on those buying sex. This increase in demand for sex also leads to an increase in sexual exploitation because buying sex and sexual exploitation are inherently linked. Therefore, if law enforcement officers are utilizing their resources with a purpose of ending commercial sexual exploitation of all individuals, it is important they remember that by targeting demand, they are also targeting the root cause of sexual exploitation.
For this reason, the CSE Institute’s advocacy focuses on the Equality Model, which continues to criminalize buying sex to decrease demand and therefore decrease the number of victims in commercial sexual exploitation. 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. Nevertheless, the CSE Institute applauds the Monroe County law enforcement officials who are working to put an end to commercial sexual exploitation.
We will provide updates as they become available.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.