Rebekah Charleston, a friend and ally of Awaken was once sex trafficked into Nevada’s legal brothels. Last week, Rebekah filed suit against Nevada seeking repeal of its prostitution laws on constitutional grounds, as well as relief for all individuals sexually exploited or trafficked as a result of legal prostitution in Nevada. For those who attended Awaken’s Banquet in 2018, you heard the courage behind Rebekah’s story. Awaken stands with and applauds Rebekah for her courage in challenging the powerful and influential interests behind Nevada’s sexploitation industry.
Ms. Charleston’s suit against Nevada comes just after Nevada was named to the 2019 Dirty Dozen List, a project of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation which identifies 12 leading mainstream facilitators of sexual exploitation. Nevada is the first-ever state to receive the ignominious distinction of placement on this List.
Nevada is the only state in America with legalized brothel prostitution, in select counties. As of February 2018, there were at least 21 brothels active in Nevada.
While some may claim that legalization provides better regulation and increased safety – the truth is that sexual violence, racism, and socioeconomic disadvantages are inextricable from the prostitution experience.
Nevertheless, nearly 81% of the voters in Lyon County, Nevada voted to keep brothels legal in 2018. This made 81% of Lyon County citizens complicit in the sex trade, and therefore complicit in the sexual exploitation (and even sex trafficking) of countless women.
Even when it is legalized, it is impossible to disentangle exploitation from prostitution.
One woman who survived being prostituted in two legal brothels in Nevada stated:
“We did not have the “independent contractor” freedom to turn down buyers. Management required us to line up when someone arrived at the brothel. Once picked from the lineup, we would bring the sex buyer back to our room where he was allowed to do whatever he wanted with us… The violent-natured men I encountered in legal brothels are no different than the men buying sex on the streets. I cannot count the number of times I physically fought with men in the brothels and how many times I have been raped because I was too scared to fight back.”
Research confirms that the vast majority of those in prostitution (whether legalized, unregulated, or criminalized) experience both the constant threat of and high rates of, sexual violence and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Legalized Prostitution in Nevada has led to an increase (not decrease) in the state’s illegal sex trade.
In fact, Nevada has the highest rates of an illegal sex trade in the country, adjusted for population. It is 63% higher than the next highest state of New York and double that of Florida.
This dismantles the myth that legalizing prostitution will decrease unregulated prostitution or sex trafficking. Wherever prostitution is legal, the demand for commercial sex skyrockets, which provides a great incentive to pimps and sex traffickers to push more women into the marketplace to sell.
Further, a recent audit of Nevada legal brothels in Lyon County found that 30% of the women had red flags for being sex trafficking victims.
Instead of legalizing and embracing sexual exploitation, prostitution policies should work to combat demand (highly penalizing and reducing sex buyer behavior) and should offer social services and job training opportunities to the women engaged in prostitution to help them exit the industry.
Anyone involved in prostitution can find resources to aid them in exiting the sex trade at www.sextradesurvivorresources.com.