“It’s just a matter of time before supply meets the demand.”
– Avery Day, trafficking survivor
In March, iEmpathize representative Mark Brende hosted a meeting in Greeley, Colorado for community representatives who were curious about how the issue of child sex trafficking might be relevant to Greeley’s oil boom. Avery Day, a survivor of human trafficking, started the presentation by holding up a cell phone she had purchased for $7.50 in cash that morning at Walmart. She explained that she’d found an online “sex for sale” advertisement and then copied and pasted its content into an advertisement on Greeley’s backpage.com “escorts” section. Backpage is the top website used by traffickers to sell their victims to buyers. Avery explained to the crowd that she was keeping everything in this advertisement the same except for the location (now updated to Greeley) and the phone number the buyer would call. She changed the number to that of her newly purchased cell phone.
Avery said, “I want you to see first-hand the demand that is here in Greeley and then let you decide if it is urgent that we respond. ”She then hit “post” on the new advertisement and set the phone down on the podium where it sat for the duration of the presentation. The phone began to buzz immediately and continued to do so throughout the 40-minutes that Mark and Avery spoke. During that time, the phone received 21 calls and 12 texts from different phone numbers. Needless to say, the room was tense with the reality of Greeley’s demand for “sex for sale.”
Greeley, Colorado is not a large town. It has a population of only about 95,000 people. We could replicate this demonstration in just about any city with a population of 50,000 or more and see similar results.
Where there is demand, there are people willing to meet that demand. Traffickers will supply victims and will profit. But if we introduce a different kind of demand, an empathy-driven demand that this injustice be eradicated, we can change culture and protect youth.
What will you demand?