Sex Trade Spikes During Conventions

Prostitution in Denver and Minneapolis will spike during the political conventions held there in the coming weeks, experts say, and online ads indicate sex workers are preparing themselves.

"Republican Convention Party Entertainment – Hostesses wanted," reads the headline of one "erotic services" ad from the Minneapolis area on Craig's List, the popular classified-ad Web site.

In the advertisement, the unnamed outfit said it was looking for "fun, outgoing" women to help entertain "High-end clients" during the convention, expected to bring tens of thousands of delegates, reporters, lobbyists and volunteers to the Twin Cities in two weeks.

The company did not respond to an emailed request for an interview. A recorded message for the phone number listed in the ad did not allow a message to be left.

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In Denver, where the Democrats will hold their convention next week, a Craig's List "erotic services" ad titled "DNC Delight" beckoned, "Help me celebrate democracy," and promised a tall, blue-eyed, dirty-blond "Rebecca" will come to a visitor's room ("I only do outcalls to hotels").

In a second ad, "Rebecca" explained that she was offering a special convention rate of $350 for two hours – but to qualify, clients must "provide proof of dem. Membership."

Speaking by phone Thursday, "Rebecca" declined to give her real name and denied she performed sex acts for money. She confirmed that responses to her online ads had increased in the days leading up to next week's convention.

"We know it's going to rise," said Vednita Carter of Breaking Free, a Denver-based nonprofit which helps women and girls involved in prostitution and sex trafficking. "That's what we've been hearing from women who are involved in that life."

Crowds like those coming for the political conventions will inevitably mean a boost for the sex industry, said former prostitute Carol Leigh, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based sex workers-rights group Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE). Indeed, any convention which draws so many people boosts the prostitution business -- not just the political gatherings, said Leigh.

Police in St. Paul and Denver did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. In earlier news accounts, police spokesmen in both cities dismissed concerns that their cities' sex trades would flourish during the conventions.

In Denver, Breaking Free's Carter said her group is concerned that the boom in sex business they are expecting will bring harm to underaged girls who have been coerced or forced to sell sexual services.

"There's going to be younger girls who are going to be involved in it," she said. "I think there might be some [physical] harm that might come. Usually the young girls have pimps. I think they're going to be real hard-core on them during the convention" by "demanding higher quotas," Carter explained.

In Minnesota and in Denver, victims' groups are planning to distribute leaflets and other material outside of convention events to educate attendees and potential victims on sex trafficking. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women's Carla Ferrucci said her group was planning to hand out its flyers at hotels and convention parties.

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