Prostitutes arrested at much higher rate than their customers - WSMV News 4

Prostitutes arrested at much higher rate than their customers

Posted: Updated:

Updated Friday, Oct. 13, at 6:15 p.m.

Since this report first aired on Thursday night, News 4 was contacted by the Metro District Attorney’s Office. Spokesperson Dorinda Carter said more than 200 Johns were arrested in 2016. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, who supplied News 4 the numbers, told us all statistics they have are reported by local agencies. In this case, that would be Metro police. We are waiting for a response from them.

Original story:

It’s been called the world’s oldest profession, but prostitution is still a crime in Nashville.

Nearly 500 people were arrested in Davidson County last year for selling their bodies for sex.

But what about those paying for sex? Not a single John was taken into custody.

Advocates say that's sending a dangerous message to Middle Tennessee.

Thistle Farms has been working to curb those numbers for 20 years. Becca Stevens is the founder. The cafe and shop employs survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution.

“Love without judgment and support each other,” Stevens said.

Program enrollment is high and the waiting list is long.

“We have women sitting in jail in Nashville that were raped at 5 or 6 years old, and then hit the streets. They are looking for not a second chance, but a first chance,” Stevens said.

Stevens has made it her mission to support former sex workers and to hold accountable those who paid for their service. She wrote the book "Love Heals" about her mission.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of investigation, people were arrested in Middle Tennessee 481 times for prostitution last year.

There were 31 arrests for promoting and 11 arrests for purchasing.

Davidson County makes up for 89 percent of those prostitution arrests and zero percent of Johns arrests.

“Part of that is saying men are less accountable because boys will be boys, and women who are sexual or selling sex are sort of these temptresses,” said Sarah Orton with the Sexual Assault Center.

Orton said the statistics are scary.

“What we are showing them are Johns are safer and more valuable members of society,” Orton said.

Both advocates point out, most prostitutes are victims of crimes themselves.

Experts say 70 percent of those working in sex trade have been abused or watched someone be abused.

“They didn't make it to the streets by themselves. It took a lot of broken systems,” Stevens said.

Stevens has also helped run "John schools." The program works to educate men arrested for buying sex.

Once they complete the course, their record is expunged. It’s only open to first time offenders.

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