Washington firms to battle sex trafficking on company computers, premises

The Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), Washington state’s unifying voice for the technology community, is hosting a conference on Wednesday, in partnership with Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking (BEST), to discuss, debate, and resolve how technology companies can help combat sex trafficking in Washington. This is not just a problem in other countries – sex trafficking is alive and well in Washington and perpetrated during business hours in many industries.

An alarming amount of sex trafficking – forced prostitution – is happening on company campuses and via company computers. It’s not surprising that 78 percent of child trafficking is conducted using technology. But it is surprising that most people searching for sex online do so at 2:00 pm, in the middle of the workday on company computers.

What’s more, an ongoing study by the Organization of Prostitution Survivors (OPS) and BEST (January 2015 to present) found that 63 percent of prostituted people say they have been taken to company properties including parking garages and corporate offices. Those who participate in illegal sex activity during business travel or using company resources are exposing employers to serous risks including employee safety, company reputation damage, civil litigation, and criminal prosecution.

“We were appalled when we learned of the severity and prevalence of sex trafficking among many industry sectors here in Washington State,” said Michael Schutzler, CEO of WTIA. “As the largest job creator and economic engine in our state, we believe tech companies must take a leadership role in bringing attention to this systemic issue. We’re hosting this event with our colleagues at BEST to mobilize the Washington tech community and use our collective technical expertise to help bring an end to sex trafficking.”

A 2014 study from Arizona State University found 6,847 men soliciting sex on one website in Seattle in a 24-hour period. Arrest records from King County show that 80 percent of the men who have been caught attempting to buy exploited minors work in the private sector. The highest prevalence industries in King Countyare retail and wholesale trade, transportation, information technology (IT), construction, manufacturing and professional services.

“As a founding partner in the BEST Employers Alliance, the WTIA is once again demonstrating the ground-breaking innovation that makes it a national leader,” said Dr. Mar Brettmann, Executive Director of BEST. “The risks posed to technology businesses by sex traffickers and sex buyers cannot be underestimated. Everyday I also see the unspeakable harm that sex trafficking causes for vulnerable children and women. Through policies and training, employers are managing their own risks while making a positive difference in the community.”

“Technology is instrumental in virtually every case of sex trafficking and sex buying, but tech can also help prevent trafficking and exploitation,” said Valiant Richey, King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. “Local companies have been collaborative partners in using technology as part of the fight. We’re pleased to see that they are now also asking how they can help prevent trafficking by sending a strong message to their employees and peers around the harmful behavior of buying sex.”

Employers across King County and the country have launched the BEST Employers Alliance, the first public/private partnership that works across industries to lead efforts focused on sex trafficking and sex buying. BEST provides vetted best practices, consulting, and training for employers to reduce their risk.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 from 8:30am-12pm PT at the PacMed Center in Seattle, located at 1200 12th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98114. The speakers encompass a broad range of members from theSeattle community including a survivor, a King County Prosecutor, senior executives and board members at local companies and organizations such as Rover.com, drugstore.com, Madrona Ventures, BEST, WTIA, etc. –

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