What my startup is doing to fight sex trafficking

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 12.12.24 PMFor me, personal safety is a mission. In college, my roommates and I were the victims of an armed robbery and hostage situation. We all survived, but the experience left me with the drive to create better personal safety solutions. Three years ago, my company, React Mobile, launched our first product, and today, we offer an entire safety platform used by individuals and organizations.

For me, it’s been eye-opening to learn that there are thousands of people here in the Puget Sound Area who are victimized by sex trafficking on a daily basis—and unable to escape or call for help. That’s why I’m participating as a panelist as part of Sex Trafficking and the Tech Industry, a half-day conference sponsored by WTIA in partnership with BEST (Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking) on May 10.

If you think that prostitution is a voluntary career choice, think again. Research has shown that the typical age of entry into prostitution is between 13 and 15 years old.

Through our company’s involvement with BEST, I’ve learned how pervasive sex trafficking is in our nation and in the greater Seattle area. A few more statistics, courtesy of BEST:

  • 300-500 children are prostituted in greater Seattle, some as young as 11 years old
  • IT is among the top six professions of people buying sex from minors in King County, and 47 percent of all individuals buying sex have an annual income of over $100,000
  • 80 percent of people buying sex visit providers on weekdays, and 2 pm is the most common time
  • 63 percent of prostituted people have met clients on company properties
  • In Seattle, there are 100 websites where you can buy sex. In one 24-hour period, an estimated 6,847 people solicited sex on just one of these websites.

Hearing about the sheer numbers involved and the stories of the victims was like a punch in the gut for me. It also was clear what my company could do to help. We became members of the BEST Employers Alliance, the first public-private partnership in the nation to prevent sex trafficking and sex buying.

For my company, this commitment means that our Human Resources policies clearly state that we don’t allow buying sex or trafficking others within our operations. My view is that this should be a best practice that all companies and organizations adopt. We’re proud to be among the employers participating in the Alliance, and we will pursue further opportunities to support anti-trafficking efforts through our technology offerings.

As a corporate citizen, React Mobile has a broader commitment to preventing sexual violence. We have formed a partnership with Take Back the Night®, an organization that strives to create safer communities and hosts awareness events about preventing all forms of sexual violence. We donate 5 percent of all our website sales to Take Back the Night to help end sexual violence and assault at universities nationwide.

Technology companies have an opportunity not just to be leaders in innovation, but to be civic leaders as well. There is much more we can do to prevent human trafficking, both with new technologies, and through vigilance with how technology is used. Finally, we can be leaders in creating healthy, safe cultures within our workplaces.

I look forward to seeing you on May 10th!

Join King County Executive Dow Constantine and local technology leaders at Sex Trafficking and the Tech Industry, held May 10 at Seattle’s PacMed Center, 1200 12th Ave. S., 8:15 am  – 12 pm. Register here.

Robb Monkman

Robb Monkman is founder and CEO of React Mobile, a simple yet powerful safety solution that transforms the way people call for help in emergencies.

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