Bright Light on the Red Light: Exposing The Harms of Legal and Deregulated Prostitution

This panel analyses the harms of both legal and deregulated (or fully decriminalized) prostitution on prostituted persons, sex trafficked persons, and the culture.

Donna M. Hughes is a Professor at the University of Rhode Island (URI) in Gender and Women’s Studies Program and the Criminology and Criminal Justice Program. She holds the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies. Dr. Hughes conducts research on human trafficking, particularly the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls. She has published research reports on Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union. She completed the first studies on the use of information technology for the trafficking of women and girls in 2001 and 2002. Currently, she is working with undergraduate students to analyze prostitution and sex trafficking in Rhode Island. In 2014, three of her research students won the URI Excellence Award for Undergraduate Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities. In 2017, she was awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Annual Research Award; and she was awarded the Alice Paul Award for Women Who Have Worked to Confront Men’s Violence Against Women by the Committee on Feminist Movement History of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism. In 2010, she was awarded the URI Council on Research Annual Research Award; and she was awarded the Norma Hotaling, Josephine Butler Award for “challenging the status quo and created new abolitionist policy or approach to sex trafficking in the United States.” In 2016, she founded a peer-reviewed, academic journal Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence. She is the Editor-in-Chief.

Sandra Norak is 29 years old. She was trafficked into prostitution through “Loverboy-Method” and spent 6 years in prostitution. Now she is about to finish law studies in Germany, specializing in European and Public International Law, focusing on Human Rights. She works to raise awareness about the system of prostitution and different forms of human trafficking, like the “Loverboy-Method,” and she is pushing for the Nordic Model. She is also doing prevention work in schools to teach young boys and girls about the reality of prostitution and how young women and girls can identify and protect themselves from “Loverboys.” She was part of the German TV documentary “Brothel Germany—The Billion-Dollar Business in Prostitution.” Her homepage is:

Renate van der Zee is a Dutch feminist journalist and writer with a focus on prostitution and human trafficking. She has done extensive research and has written several books on the Dutch sex industry. Her stance is that the legalisation of prostitution in The Netherlands has not only failed to improve conditions for women in prostitution, but has helped to create a market where international networks of human traffickers exploit vulnerable women from poor countries who are bought by men who justify themselves by claiming that what they do is legal.

Melissa Holland serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Awaken, a nonprofit whose mission is to increase awareness and education surrounding the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and to provide housing and restoration for its victims. Melissa holds a license in Marriage Family Therapy from the University of Nevada, Reno. Melissa believes strongly in responding to God’s call to seek justice for the oppressed, and is passionate about uniting the community in the fight to end the sexual exploitation of women and children.

This presentation was given at the 2019 Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit.

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



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