Prostitute Numbers Expected to Jump During DNC

Denver's goal to make August's Democratic National Convention eco-friendly could overshadow other important issues – such as the spike in prostitutes being imported to town to cater to the city's 35,000 guests.

"The amount of awareness that there is among activist communities is high. I think not a lot of (other) people have been listening," said Amanda Moon, a graduate student in international human rights at the University of Denver. "I think this DNC is trying to achieve a lot of things that have never been done before like the green movement, which is a great movement. But a lot of energy is being focused toward that, and a lot of other issues aren't being heard."

The exact number of sex workers trafficked into the city for the DNCC would be impossible to calculate.

But many metro area strip bars have already tripled their staff in preparation for the convention, said Stephanie Sharp, who has done outreach work with Denver prostitutes and works for the STD division of the Colorado Department of Public Health.

"[The police] have a whole list of things they have to be concerned about as well, and prostitution and sex trafficking is not at the top," Moon added.

State Rep. Alice Borodkin, D-Denver, who has worked to crack down on human trafficking the last three years, said the convention could be a good opportunity to make contact with prostitutes brought into Denver, but logistically any outreach effort would be complicated.

"My personal feeling is that we need to do a lot more. I'm not 100 percent convinced that people understand what they're looking at," Borodkin said.

Sharp said ideally outreach groups will join forces to offer resources and options outside of prostitution to any trafficked-in women.

Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee spokesman Chris Lopez referred questions to Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson.

Of course the spike in sex workers and human trafficking isn't unique to Denver's August convention.

According to a February article in the Rocky Mountain News:

Officer Ana Aguirre, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles police, which hosted the DNC in 2000, said there's "definitely a spike" in prostitution during large events like political conventions.

In Denver, said police spokesman Sonny Jackson, "We're preparing to handle a variety of issues that may come up."

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's office did not immediately return a call for comment.

Moon said the Denver Police Department is working to train officers on how to recognize workers trapped in the sex trafficking industry with the Polaris Project, a nonprofit that works to help individuals get out of the business.

But Denver, with its intersection of major highways and the Denver International Airport, is a convenient location to move sex workers through – and switching prostitutes' cities prevents them from making any ties to the community that could help them escape the business, advocates said.

Women in Denver typically enter prostitution at the age of 11 or 12, slightly younger than the national average, Sharp said.

To make matters worse, Denver is "almost completely pimp controlled" with pimps controlling almost all of the women who work as prostitutes through psychological manipulation and violence, Sharp said.

Of the 500 Denver prostitutes that Sharp has interviewed, she said only a handful worked for themselves.

Moon and Sharp gave their talk, Human Trafficking and Consumerism, Friday as part of the University of Denver's Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

Human trafficking is a $44 billion a year industry, according to event organizers.

For more information or to report a possible human trafficking situation, residents can call 1-800-455-5075.

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  • invalid-0

    Remember the 40,000 sex slaves destined for Germany during the World Cup? Never happened. Please read the IOM report linked to via my “homepage” (above). The problem is that panic around sex trafficking can lead to crackdowns on prostitutes, especially migrant prostitutes. Sex trafficking is indeed a problem, but current police approaches have resulted in many people being deported and only a few being helped. I’d hope that activists who care about sex trafficking would also be concerned to make sure that their efforts do not wind up harming others. One needs intelligent responses to sex trafficking, and not blanket fear.

  • invalid-0

    I look to RH Reality Check for highly reliable reporting on important issues of sexuality and reproductive health. I was surprised to see this article because it does exactly the opposite of what I have come to expect from this site: it takes a serious issue and spins it in a sex-panic direction with little actual research or data or logically sound analysis.

    A few examples:

    Prostitution is conflated with trafficking and any increase in prostitution is assumed to represent a spike in trafficking with no accounting for voluntary migration among sex workers.

    The only research offered in support of any claims in the article is never explained. Sharp interviewed 500 prostitutes and found only a handful worked for themselves. One might ask where did she find her research subjects? And does she count women working for escort services as women who have pimps? Certainly they aren’t “working for themselves,” but I don’t think that most would consider agency escorts to be “pimp controlled.”

    Then there are the problems of talking about trafficking as if it is all sex trafficking.

    RH Reality Check is one of the best sources out there for reliable information about sexual health stories. Certainly sex work as a social issue — and one which is important in discussions of public health — deserves to be taken seriously. What happened?

  • invalid-0

    I would like to add my support to the above comments from Human Trafficking, and from Professor Wood. The continuing moral panic associated with any large event is becoming tiresome, as has the propagation of mythology about sex work. If RH wants to publish some serious research on sex work, I and the previous writers would be only to happy to assist you.

    For more information on the literature on sex work, migration and trafficking of persons (including the World Cup hoax), please refer to:

    and for sex work in general: