While in Moscow during the World Cup this past summer, we reached out to trafficked and sexually exploited women across the city. But, as the sex industry only exists due to male demand, we also reached out to sex buyers in hopes of inspiring change in their minds and hearts. We set up a fake ad online for a woman in prostitution and gathered the email addresses of many men who responded to the ad.
We were able to meet up with a few of the men in person and saw them deeply impacted. The rest of the men received this message from our Director of Outreach & Intervention:
You emailed me in Moscow under an ad for a Russian girl named “Anya.” I just wanted to reach out to you to let you know she wasn’t real. I’m with an anti-trafficking organization and we were meeting up with sex buyers as part of an undercover operation to help explain to men that huge numbers of women are trafficked to Russia. The photo I used [in the ad] was of a trafficked girl who donated her photo to be used for this operation.
During the World Cup we organized a brothel raid with the police where more than a dozen girls, several underage, were being kept as sex slaves with pimps. Are you aware that this is the reality for many women? And that you could have been purchasing a girl who was forced into prostitution?
I want to encourage you to make a change in your life and be a better man, Tom. Don’t purchase a woman’s sexual consent as that is actually coercive—and demeaning for you—especially as you may likely be purchasing a woman who’s there against her will but cannot tell you this.
I have worked with trafficked women in prostitution around the world for over 10 years and it is a horrific thing that takes them years of counseling to recover from. They have similar trauma rates to recovering war soldiers in combat. Don’t be part of the demand that increases the supply!
The men we met at the hotels in Russia who turned up thinking they were meeting with “Anya” said it had been a wake up call. I hope this is a wake up call to you.
Here is the Sexaholics Anonymous contact if you wish to begin recovery and freedom from a sex addiction: www.sa.org/
If not, I wish you the very best and I hope this email has left you with some food for thought.
After receiving this message, one man responded with these inspiring words:
I think that the internet lulls people like me into believing there aren’t consequences to their interactions online. Although I’m certainly aware that sex trafficking is rampant in Russia, I enjoyed the “game” of chatting with women and awaiting their responses.
Believe it or not, I will contact the website you provided, as I’m ashamed of my actions and know that engaging at any level in this world legitimizes and perpetuates the disgusting act of treating women as consumable objects. The desire for sexual gratification is a sad excuse to exercise power over others.
I’m not writing this email as a way to absolve my scummy actions, but I just want to let you know that your response to me helps to hammer home this reality. And you did make a difference. So thank you and I hope you continue to root out, shame, and prevent sex trafficking and the demeaning of women in whatever capacity you can.
The situation for sex buyers around the world is far from hopeless. We truly believe the hearts of men can be turned toward empathy, honor, and freedom.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Photo Credit MILKOVÍ