Nonprofit Spotlight: Businesses can fight sex trafficking |

Nonprofit Spotlight: Businesses can fight sex trafficking

Plumas Bank sponsors this content

Nevada has the largest commercial sex market of any state, according to the nonprofit Awaken, based in Reno.
Courtesy Awaken

Awaken is a local nonprofit that has been serving the Northern Nevada community since 2011. Awaken’s mission is to increase awareness and education surrounding the issue of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) and to provide housing and restoration for its victims.

The need for our services is clear. There are more victims of the illegal sex trade in Nevada than in any other state, 63% more than the next highest state. In Northern Nevada alone, it is estimated that over 1,500 women and girls are being prostituted at any point in time.

“Our culture as a state has been quite libertarian, so we have been comfortable with an ‘anything goes’ mindset,” said Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Northern Nevada in Reno-Sparks. “Unfortunately, when it comes to ‘legalized’ prostitution, that means we have turned a blind eye to sex trafficking, increased ‘illegal’ prostitution and the negative branding that goes with being the only state in the nation that allows the sale of women for sex.”

Awaken’s strategies are built on the pillars of Prevention, Restoration, and City Transformation. Our local epidemic of prostitution and sex trafficking will never change until we all agree that it is never right to buy and sell women and children for one’s own pleasure.

The #MeToo movement has allowed women’s voices recounting sexual abuse to be heard, believed, and acted upon. Sadly, it has also exposed that the more power a man has, the more sex he can coerce from those with less power.

For Nevada, there is still one significant gap in the #MeToo movement: sexual harassment has been turned into a form of work. Nevada is the only state in the country that legally sanctions the buying and selling of women for sex. Women are public sexual commodities under our law.

Catharine MacKinnon, a Harvard Law Professor states, “If requiring sexual use as the price of survival is a human rights violation when combined with a real job, it certainly violates human rights when it is the only thing a woman is valued for.”

Yet, in Nevada, we have made it legal to buy a person solely for sexual use. MacKinnon continues, “Many social sectors are recognizing their obligation to foster environments free from sexual objectification, pressure or aggression, in which reporting of sexual abuse is welcomed.” Real equality for Nevada could begin here.

Businesses can be a part of the solution

Buyers are represented across all demographic groups of men but they typically have higher incomes.

Therefore, every business or organization should state explicitly within its code of conduct that buying sex is prohibited, including activities on company time or with company resources that are related to sex buying.

Such policies should provide clear and specific consequences for employees caught buying sex, including relaying the incident to local authorities under mandated reporter protocol— acknowledging that the prostituted person is potentially an adult or juvenile trafficking victim.

Contact your Representatives

Governments that care about women’s equality, dignity and safety should never adopt laws that enable exploiters, such as pimps, abusers, and sex buyers, to operate freely. Visit our website to send an email voicing your support to end the pimp protection law.

To learn more about what we are doing in the community, and how you can continue to support us, call us at 775-393-9183 or visit our website at

This article was provided by the nonprofit Awaken; Plumas Bank sponsors this content.