02/19/2013 01:32 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

How Men Can Help Stop Sex Trafficking

By Ed Ouellette, TakePart

Let me tell you a true story—Brianna’s story.

Brianna was a normal teenage girl. She was an all-star athlete and a waitress at a local mom and pop café in a small town in Washington. She dreamed of moving to a big city, and going to college to study nursing.

It was almost her 18th birthday, and Brianna was working late, when a few college guys came into the diner. One guy, Nick, was a college football player. He was tall, blond and handsome, and Brianna was instantly drawn to him. That night, Brianna called Nick and they talked for hours.

Nick invited Brianna to Seattle to hang out. As their relationship grew, he asked her to move in with him. When she asked how she would pay for college, he suggested she work as a dancer at a strip club. Brianna was uncomfortable about going to a strip club, but Nick convinced her. The club was filthy and smelled like old socks. She spent only two nights dancing at the club, but during that time many men tried to buy sex with her.

Nick asked Brianna to go to Arizona with him to visit his parents for Christmas. Knowing she needed to return her father’s car, which she borrowed to meet Nick in Seattle, she headed for home. On her way she called Evan, an old high-school friend, to help her pack and return to Seattle. As she and Evan were talking, Evan realized that Brianna was in a very dangerous situation. He contacted the authorities.

To end sex trafficking, we need to hit the root cause: Men purchasing women and girls for sex. It’s simple economics. If men demand paid sex with children, traffickers will aggressively seek to supply it.

It was through Evan’s report that police uncovered that Nick was connected to a trafficking ring active in multiple states around the nation. Brianna was saved, but only in the nick of time. The night she first met Nick in the small café, Brianna never suspected that a pimp had chosen her.

I fight sex trafficking. I’m not a cop. I’m not a courtroom attorney. I’m not a legislator. I’m just a regular guy.

I actively fight sex trafficking by educating, equipping and empowering other men to fight against trafficking and commercial exploitation. Why? Because to end sex trafficking, we need to hit the root cause: Men purchasing women and girls for sex. It’s simple economics. If men demand paid sex with children, traffickers will aggressively seek to supply it.

I hate to say it, but Brianna’s story is commonplace in America. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that more than 100,000 U.S. children are lured into prostitution every year. A 2009 report by Shared Hope International states the average age a child who is first exploited through prostitution is 13 years old. Sadly, most exploited children aren’t rescued like Brianna.

How do we stop this epidemic in our nation? It all comes down to men. We need more “Evans” in our nation and this world. We need more men to stand up and defend and protect women and children. We need men like William Wilberforce, who led the anti-trafficking movement in Great Britain during the late 1700s to early 1800s.

In America, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with the 13th amendment. Where are the male abolitionist leaders today? Few and far between.

Like no other time in history, I believe that America is primed to tackle trafficking once and for all. It’s time to end it, and guys need to be leaders in the movement. We can be the villains or the heroes. It’s up to us.

The Defenders USA, founded in 2006, is a coalition of men who fight sex trafficking. We are a group of men who take a pledge not to engage in the commercial sex industry, who take immediate action to protect our loved ones from this market, and hold our friends accountable.

Guys reading this right now, I’m speaking to you. It’s go time. Time to man up. Take action. Take the Defender’s pledge.

Women, encourage the guys you know to take the pledge. It might just save a life.

This story originally appeared on TakePart.



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