As we previously reported, on November 19, 2023, a 34-year-old, York County woman was arrested and charged with prostitution, making a false report, possession of drug paraphernalia, and theft. On January 4, 2024, Judge Jeffrey Oberdorf held the prostitution and drug paraphernalia charges for court after determining there was enough evidence to support each charge. The false report charge and the theft charge were dismissed during the preliminary hearing. The woman is currently being held at York County Prison as she has been unable to post her $5000 bail.
Additionally, on November 27, 2023, David Butts, 66, was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of simple assault, one count of reckless endangerment, and one count of patronizing a prostitute. Butts was arraigned on November 30,2023 and his preliminary hearing was held on January 2024. At the preliminary hearing, all of the charges were held for court.
As we previously reported, early on Sunday morning, November 19, 2023, Northern County Regional Police (NYCRP) were called to a shooting at a Days Inn Motel in Manchester Township. When they arrived, officers spoke with the woman and noted that there were several inconsistencies in her story. After pointing out the inconsistencies, the woman allegedly stated that she agreed to urinate on a 66-year-old man from Harrisburg in one of the motel rooms in exchange for money. She then told police that, following the incident, the man approached her in the parking lot with a handgun and purportedly fired one shot at her vehicle.
During their investigation, officers found a 9mm shell casing in the parking lot where the woman’s vehicle was parked. After contacting the man, identified as David Butts, authorities reported that he allegedly confirmed the incident and stated that he followed the woman to the parking lot because he believed that she had stolen his wallet. Butts later found his wallet in the parking lot and returned to Harrisburg. While on the way to meet with officers in person, the man was involved in a car accident and has since been hospitalized. When officers responded to the crash, they located the handgun used in the shooting.
The CSE Institute is disappointed in the decision to prosecute the woman with prostitution. The practice of prosecuting people who are bought and sold for sex perpetuates the harmful ideology that people in prostitution are criminals rather than people who are exploited. It increases the traumatization and stigmatization of this population and creates even more barriers for victims attempting to exit “the life.” A single criminal conviction can serve as a massive obstacle to stable employment, housing opportunities, and much more.
Additionally, the media’s reporting on this incident is also of concern. York Dispatch, a media platform, reported on this incident twice. The first report on November, 20, 2023, was almost entirely focused on the women arrested for prostitution. The woman’s activities were detailed, her name was included, and her mug shot was posted. David Butts’s name was not mentioned, and his mug shot was not included. On December 1, 2023, this platform posted another article focused more so on David Butts arrest.
The CSE Institute encourages the media to consider how their reporting impacts the disparity in treatment between those charged with selling sex and those charged with buying sex. Listing the names and mug shots of those who allegedly sell sex leads to further victimization of these women, and a focus on the demand is a more effective way to deter commercial sexual exploitation.
The first step to ending commercial sexual exploitation is to understand that if there is no demand from sex buyers, the entire industry collapses. The media must stop villainizing persons in prostitution while ignoring the culpability of sex buyers. Formally charging victims with prostitution does nothing to target sex traffickers or buyers. It is traffickers and buyers who perpetuate sexual exploitation and keep the commercial sex trade alive. At the CSE Institute, we firmly support the Equality Model. 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 CSE Institute will continue to provide updates on the matter.
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.