To fight prostitution in the Dayton area, the city announced the “Buyer’s Remorse” campaign on Jan. 11, which aims to break the cycle of supply and demand that fuels the sex industry.
Beginning May 1, the names and addresses of sex buyers will be released on buyersremorsecampaign.com and targeted ads will be shown on Facebook to those who live near the convicted offenders. The ads will only be targeted toward Facebook users who are at least 18 years of age.
According to the FAQ page for the program, “the city is looking to curb demand for paid sex through the Buyer’s Remorse campaign.” The campaign also highlights how most women who become prostitutes rarely do so by choice, and how most are dealing with drug addictions and past childhood trauma.
“These are systemic issues,” said Bailey Johnson, president of UD Feminists United. “It is important to remember that many of the largest social issues plaguing the city of Dayton are not isolated from one another.”
In the past, the names and addresses of those convicted of prostitution-related offenses were published in the Dayton Daily News, and they are now listed on the newspaper’s website. Dayton police also have tried to deter sex-buying by sending warning letters to those who have not been convicted, but who have been seen loitering in high prostitution areas.
According to Tony Talbott, UD professor and director of advocacy for the Human Rights Center, the “Buyer’s Remorse” campaign is a small step toward the Nordic Model approach to prostitution, which makes the act of buying sex illegal in an attempt to reduce the demand for prostitution. The women who sell sex are then given access to services to help them exit the industry.
On the other hand, full criminalization of prostitution has not worked to reduce prostitution, and forces women to bear the brunt of the punishment while the men who purchase sex do not receive substantial consequences, according to Talbott.
The city of Dayton collaborated with many organizations while designing the “Buyer’s Remorse” campaign, including Sidewalk Soldiers, a nonprofit organization in Ohio that provides outreach and assistance to women involved in prostitution. They also worked with Community Overdose Action Team (COAT), which deals with the opioid epidemic. Additionally, they spoke with former prostitutes to listen to their stories and hear their opinions.
“We want to be thoughtful about how everyone is impacted,” said Torey Hollingsworth, senior policy aide for the city of Dayton. “What we have heard has been pretty positive.”
Among the positive reactions to the “Buyer’s Remorse” campaign, there are some who worry about the shaming aspect of the program.
In an interview with WYSO, David Singleton, the executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center said, “It will shame folks in a way that’s going to make it hard for them to be rehabilitated, and there’s going to be the risk of the vigilantes as well as a shame that’s brought to [a] family including children and it’s just not worth it.”
Those who have their information posted as part of the “Buyer’s Remorse” campaign do have the opportunity to have their names removed when their records are expunged. The city prosecutor will work with the Dayton Municipal Court to track expungements for anyone who was convicted of a prostitution-related offense, and there will be a form on the website for those who believe they have wrongly been listed.