This report examines the scope and context surrounding the commercial sex market in Nebraska as evidenced through advertisement activity on Backpage.com. In particular, we seek to define the commercial sex industry across the state and to identify the proportion of the industry where trafficking may be occurring. Drawing on analysis of individuals’ engagement with the market, we identify a number of key attributes concerning Nebraska’s commercial sex market and the proportion of sex trafficking embedded within it. Select findings include:
- A Robust Market: there is a large and persistent demand for commercial sex across the state of Nebraska, fueling a market of 900 individuals sold for sex multiple times each month. Approximately 15% of the those engaging in the market are at high-risk of being trafficked, showing signs of being underage or controlled by a third party.
- Vulnerable Populations: Often individuals sold for sex are recruited from vulnerable populations. Nebraska’s commercial sex market is extremely skewed toward youth, low socio-economic status and minorities.
- A Statewide Issue: Sex trafficking is embedded in the state’s highly interconnected commercial sex market. Demand is strong in each of the five Nebraska cities with dedicated advertising pages, but it spills over to nearly every town and city along I-80.
Drawing on these findings, we provide the following recommendations:
- Economic Opportunities: Policies for systems change that create meaningful alternative employment opportunities provide the most viable path out of the commercial sex industry for these individuals.
- System Collaboration: Collaboration and information sharing with other states and across jurisdictions between private and public agencies is critical. Nearly half of individuals sold for sex in Nebraska cross state lines, and 51% travel within the state. The transient nature of individuals sold for sex statewide makes victim identification difficult unless system collaboration occurs.
- Evoking Greater Nebraska: Anti-trafficking efforts in the central and western parts of the state should focus on truck stops, gas stations and hotels along major highways.
- Increase Penalties for Buyers: As long as there is a demand for commercial sex, there will be a market for it. Those purchasing others for sex are willing to pay a premium for younger, newer individuals. order to reduce the incentive for trafficking, serious efforts to curb demand, such as increasing the penalty and likelihood of being caught, are needed.