Court of public opinion: new anti-prostitution laws aim to shame

A trend has been gradually developing in the United States when it comes to deterring the oldest profession. Beginning in the 1960s, experts and policy-makers began talking about cutting back prostitution by focusing on the customers who pay for sex instead of the workers who provide it.

Local governments in Texas and around the country have taken to publishing the identities of men who participate in prostitution crimes, including internet crimes like online solicitation. This public shaming can have big harmful consequences for reputations. One town is preparing to release the names of more than 100 "john's" this week, highlighting how important it is to be aware of local anti-prostitution laws. 

Authorities in this town are investigating an alleged prostitution scheme that operated in a fitness studio. While they have identified the scheme's male clients, it is not clear to what degree they have confirmed or proven that these men actually sought illegal sex services.

This raises a potentially big question in any area that engages in public "shaming." While defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in legal courts, it is not clear whether the same applies to the court of public opinion. In other words, men who are accused of seeking sexual services might not have an opportunity to clear their names before the government publicizes their identities.

Even if a defendant does prove himself innocent afterwards, massive reputational harm will have already occurred in many cases. As is the case with many sex crimes charges, mere allegations can be very damaging.

Source: NBC, "Prostitute patrons can't hide their faces anymore," Larry Neumeister, Oct. 13, 2012

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