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An Open Letter to All Presidential Candidates

This letter by Rev. Dr. Marian Hatcher and Rebecca Bender was originally posted here.

Dear Presidential Candidates,

We, the undersigned survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking, have experienced years of abuse, violence, objectification, and dehumanization in the sex trade. We know first-hand the devastating harm and long-term trauma that happens as a result of being exploited in an industry predicated on racial, gender, and income inequality.

We are aware that candidates running for President are being asked for their positions on proposals to decriminalize the sex trade, and we are deeply alarmed, honestly horrified, by recent statements that suggest an openness to decriminalizing the sex trade in its entirety. We urge presidential candidates to learn from survivors the truth about the pervasive harms and suffering perpetrated by sex buyers, pimps, traffickers, and other exploiters before issuing statements about the sex trade.

At a time when we are culturally taking a stand against violence and harassment towards women and marginalized groups, creating spaces of inclusion and opportunity, why would we take a step backward by allowing these very groups to be further exposed to the harms of prostitution as long as it is monetized?

To be clear, we support decriminalizing people sold in prostitution, as we care deeply about their safety and well-being. We know all too well that marginalized groups are at higher risk for exploitation and therefore are especially vulnerable to the harms of the sex trade. But decriminalizing the sex trade in its entirety would have disastrous consequences. Do not be confused- full decriminalization means allowing pimps, sex buyers, and brothel owners to operate with impunity. Sex trafficking (including that of children) and organized crime increases when pimping and sex buying are legalized.

As survivors, our voices and lived experiences are essential to these discussions. We are eager to share our perspectives and have a productive dialogue with all Presidential candidates and others running for elected office. However, we will not be spoken for or have our voices hijacked by anyone claiming that trafficking survivors support full decriminalization of pimps, buyers, and brothel owners. We will no longer stand by while our truths are misunderstood or misrepresented to support the misguided aims of the pro-prostitution “de facto” progressive political agenda.

The vast majority of survivors of prostitution and trafficking want to put an end to the buying and selling of vulnerable people and know first hand that the best way to do so is to ensure that pimping and sex buying remain behaviors that aren’t encouraged or tolerated.


Rev. Dr. Marian Hatcher, Survivor Leader
SPACE International U.S.A. – Member
Ambassador-At-Large, United Nations

Rebecca Bender, MACT
CEO & Founder: RBI, Survivor Leader

We are circulating this sign-on letter and inviting other survivors, individuals, and organizations to read and sign on in support. We are collecting signatures between now and Wednesday, June 26, 5 pm EDT. If you would like to sign on, please follow one of the links below and provide your name and organization/affiliation if applicable:

Sign as a Survivor

Sign as an Individual or Organization

View the current list of survivor signees here.

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoFlorian Klauer

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