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How the tech industry can combat sex trafficking and prostitution — and why it should

If individuals in Tuesday’s Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) convention get their want, there’s going to be a brand new matter for water-cooler conversations at Seattle-area tech companies: stopping sex trafficking.

The occasion, known as Sex Trafficking and the Tech Industry, tackled not solely the position that expertise corporations may play in curbing prostitution, which has an enormous on-line part, but in addition took an unflinching have a look at the position tech employees play by soliciting prostitutes.

As a result of whereas tech clearly isn’t solely accountable for the drawback, it is one in all the industries disproportionately represented amongst sex patrons.

Males soliciting under-age prostitutes are 79 p.c white and principally center and upper-class, whereas the prostitutes are predominantly African American, in keeping with King County statistics. And whereas it’s almost inconceivable to say what number of males are paying for sex, native authorities say the quantity could possibly be greater than 20,000.

There are greater than 100 web sites for getting sex in our area and there have been 25,000 adverts a month on one web site alone, mentioned Valiant Richey, a King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Legal professional. “It’s a large market.”

The county can arrest roughly 300 to 400 males shopping for sex per yr, however it isn’t sufficient.

“We can not arrest our approach out of this drawback,” Richey mentioned. “It’s inconceivable for the legal justice system to unravel this situation.”

The roughly 70 individuals in the half-day convention in Seattle mentioned varied methods for combatting sex trafficking, however a lot of the dialog targeted on the tradition of the tech industry at massive and its struggles to make ladies really feel welcome and supported in the discipline.

Presenters and representatives from the sector agreed that management from CEOs and others in positions of energy is important for making a respectful, female-friendly setting that might assist tackle sex trafficking together with different equality points.

Throughout a panel dialogue, Daybreak Lepore, former CEO and chairman of the board of drugstore.com, emphasised the significance of male management amongst their friends in preventing sex trafficking.

“Until the males who run a lot of the expertise corporations take this on and are advocates for it, it’s going to be more durable to vary the tech industry,” Lepore mentioned.

A few of the first steps are educating males about the results of sex trafficking on prostitutes.

“There’s a nice false impression about this drawback,” mentioned Invoice Richter, a accomplice at the VC agency Madrona Enterprise Group and WTIA board chair. “In the tech group, we’re massive followers of the entrepreneur” and some well-liked depictions of prostitutes — together with Julia Roberts in “Fairly Lady” and Jamie Lee Curtis in “Buying and selling Locations” — painting these ladies as entrepreneurs.

“That couldn’t be farther from the actuality of all of this,” Richter mentioned.

Somewhat, knowledge present that 85 p.c of prostitutes have skilled sexual and bodily abuse as youngsters and greater than 89 p.c would depart prostitution if given an alternate, in keeping with knowledge shared by the native nonprofit Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), which organized the convention with the WTIA. The occasion was held at the Pacific Medical Heart on Beacon Hill.

Convention presenter Mike Provenzano works with males who’re convicted of shopping for sex in King County. He serves as a males’s accountability facilitator with the Organization for Prostitution Survivors, serving to educate individuals.

The vast majority of males soliciting prostitutes know they’re hurting the ladies, however “they need to ignore the proven fact that what they’re doing is dangerous,” he mentioned. “Accepting that hurt and the truth that somebody has been personally contributing to abuse is a extremely robust factor.”

And it runs counter to a few of the messages round sex that males have been raised to consider, Provenzano mentioned. They consider that they’re entitled to sex, that they should show their manliness via sexual conquest and that it’s high quality to objectify ladies.

“As males, please be allies to ladies and women and do your greatest to point out up and not objectify,” Provenzano mentioned.

Brent Turner, chief working officer of Rover.com and one in all the panelists, agreed that tech leaders and males specifically wanted to step up and have conversations about sex trafficking that might admittedly be awkward.

“You don’t flip cultures with out getting uncomfortable with one another,” he mentioned, “and it is on the guys.”

The panel and presenters mentioned whether or not corporations should undertake insurance policies explicitly prohibiting staff from soliciting prostitutes throughout work hours and from utilizing work computer systems and telephones for that objective.

“Fundamental human rights violations fall into the class of out-of-bounds issues,” mentioned Turner, who can be board chairman for the nonprofit Real Escape from the Sex Trade (REST). At the similar time, he argued that guidelines forbidding participation in sex trafficking won’t be as efficient as establishing office values that will clearly frown up such habits, and stepping in to speak to people in the event that they’re not aligned with these values.

These focused on implementing particular insurance policies to deal with the situation had been inspired to hitch the BEST Employers Alliance to take a public stand in opposition to sex trafficking. BEST additionally has assets accessible to corporations together with workshops, greatest practices for combatting sex trafficking and worker coaching.

Mar Brettmann, BEST founder, applauded the WTIA for taking up this situation.

“That is the first time I’ve heard of a whole industry coming collectively to speak about stopping sex trafficking,” Brettmann mentioned. “What you’re doing is one thing very thrilling and new.”

The group additionally talked about the potential for constructing new expertise to assist tackle the situation extra broadly. One thought was to take the instruments usually used to focus on personalised adverts to internet buyers, and apply them to individuals looking for sex as an alternative. On this case, a seek for prostitutes may result in details about the hurt attributable to prostitution, and assets for getting assist.

“If we put that to a few of the entrepreneurs in the metropolis,” Richter mentioned, “I really feel like it could possibly be finished tomorrow.”

The group moreover mentioned the significance of serving to ladies, and significantly minority ladies, discover better-paying jobs, decreasing their want to show to unlawful actions to assist themselves and their households.

Convention individuals had been inspired to enroll with BEST and strain others to take motion as effectively.

Until individuals begin speaking about it, “we’re unaware of this occurring in our midst,” mentioned Michael Schutzler, CEO of the WTIA. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

Now this extra knowledgeable group must unfold the phrase to their employees and friends in management positions. “This isn’t the finish of the dialog for the WTIA,” he mentioned, “that is simply the starting.”

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