Emma, a 21-year-old college student, thought she could fly to meet a man on the other side of the U.S., have dinner and nothing more and simply return home.
Her date, an older affluent man who met her on the “sugar dating” website Seeking Arrangement and paid for her travel, instead tried to sexually assault her. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) told Emma’s story in releasing its 2020 Dirty Dozen list of mainstream companies that facilitate, profit from or normalize sexual exploitation.
“[Emma] was left alone and vulnerable across the country,” Haley McNamara, NCOSE vice president of advocacy and outreach, said at a 10 a.m. press conference in Washington. “There are many others who share her story and much worse.” Emma is one of 3 million college students who have free accounts on the website that misleads participants into thinking it’s not a prostitution site, McNamara said.
“What we’re seeing here is the capitalization and sexual exploitation of an entire generation’s economic vulnerability, as the student debt crisis climbs to the trillions of dollars,” McNamara said of Seeking Arrangement. “No student should have to sexually barter for their education. Further, make no mistake. Sugar dating is pseudo dating — prostitution, and it’s vital to push back against this exploitive trend.”
The sugar dating site joins 12 others on the Dirty Dozen list that is for the first time a baker’s dozen. NCOSE credits Wyndham Hotels and Resorts with the 13th spot. The NCOSE Law Center is suing Wyndham on behalf of an alleged survivor of child sex trafficking on claims the company facilitated and profited from the sex trafficking of a minor at one of the Super 8 hotels Wyndham owns.
“In 2020, it is intolerable for a mainstream company or entity to facilitate, profit from, or normalize sexual exploitation” McNamara said. “And that’s why the Dirty Dozen List exists. This list ensures that their promotion and collusion with sexual assault, sex trafficking, pornography, the eroticization of incest, and more, becomes public knowledge, and equips concerned citizens with information and tools to hold them accountable.”
Seeking Arrangement and Wyndham are on the list for the first time, as are Visa, the discount shopping site Wish, and the TikTok social media video app. Returning in 2020 from the previous year are Amazon, Google, Massage Envy, Netflix, the state of Nevada, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Steam and Twitter.
Seeking Arrangement, with 20 million members and one of the largest sugar dating sites, makes a priority of targeting college students who struggle with debt, setting them up to “service socio-economically advantaged older men,” NCOSE said on its list. The system of “thinly veiled prostitution” could easily lead to sex trafficking, NCOSE said, citing an analysis from the Department of Homeland Security.
The NCOSE law center has an active lawsuit against Wyndham and its subsidiaries, accusing the companies of ignoring numerous signs that a girl was being sex trafficked at Super 8, Clarion Inn and Motel 6 locations for two years beginning when she was 16. Wyndham also profits from on-demand pornography offered in its rooms, NCOSE said.
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Source: Baptist Press