Minnesota researcher shares findings on sex buyers

The Sexual Exploitation Working Group offered a Lunch and Learn lecture on Sex Trading and Trafficking in Minnesota: A focus on sex buyers, by a researcher from the University of Minnesota.

Lauren Martin, PhD, Director of Research , Urban Research Outreach Engagement Centre at the University of Minnesota presented at Grant MacEwan University over the lunch hour on Jan. 25.

"We saw that there was a gap in policy research on the demand side so we wanted to look at the difference between buyer and trafficker in a study we called Mapping the Market for Sex," said Martin.

Initial research showed that in media stories, only 24% of articles discussing sex trafficking talk about the buyers. In most cases the focus is often on the traffickers and the providers.

Martin and her research partners found that sex buyers use a variety of ways to access the market to avoid detection by law enforcement.

"It's not just online ads and Back Page, but closed buyer networks," she said. "Buyers are building groups connected to traffickers through text and face-to-face, which makes it harder to detect."

The research team set out to discover demographic information about who is buying sex, and the answer is mostly white, married men.

"We found that 80 to 90 per cent of sex buyers are married with children," said Martin. "The project found that in Minnesota, 14 per cent of men said they had purchased sex

1 per cent said they had purchased sex in the last year."

The project also showed that most sex buyers are travelling to purchase sex.

"Typically, people don't purchase sex in their home town. We also found that most buyers don't know if the provider is a victim, while some come clearly do know," said Martin. "We're usually seeing white men of means purchasing sex from young women of colour and marginalized women."

Martin and her team are looking forward to continuing their research in this area to help social agencies create effective tactics in the area of prevention.

"If we want to work toward demand reduction, we need to work on awareness, racial equity issues and gender issues," she said "We have to think about these larger issues when addressing sex trafficking."

The Sexual Exploitation Working Group (SEWG) is an Edmonton-based leadership group collaborating to create awareness of sexual exploitation and its causes and impacts. The SEWG is a collaborative of community partners, law enforcement, municipal and provincial government, and REACH Edmonton. The group will be hosting a number of public events April 16-20 during the annual Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness.