June 4, 2020

STATEMENT – Dignity Defense Alert: How Instacart and Doordash are Helping Sex Trafficking and Domestic Violence Victims During COVID-19

Washington, DC (June 4, 2020) – To launch its Dignity Defense Campaign, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is recognizing Instacart and Doordash for their efforts to help sex trafficking and domestic violence victims during COVID-19. NCOSE’s Dignity Defense Alert is a new campaign to recognize the people, companies, and nonprofits, who are taking action to defend human dignity from any form of sexual abuse or exploitation.

“We want to celebrate heroes who do what is right, and we want to applaud every milestone that we can in the journey towards a world free from sexual abuse and exploitation. For being defenders of dignity, we are honored to recognize Instacart and Doordash for working to help victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence during COVID-19,” said Dawn Hawkins, senior vice president and executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation alerted these companies to COVID-19 trends where pimps and sex traffickers have been coercing victims to enter the gig economy and to hand any profits they make to their exploiters. NCOSE learned of this current tendency from direct service providers doing outreach to victims of sex trafficking across the U.S. Initially, COVID-19 quarantining seemed to reduce the demand for commercial sex, decreasing profits for these serial abusers. Despite sex buying increasing once more after the initial decline, NCOSE continues to hear that human traffickers are trying to increase their profits by pushing victims into the gig economy as well. In addition, domestic violence is increasing during COVID-19, as people are confined at home with their abusers. NCOSE likewise heard that intimate partners have also pushed their victims to take gig economy jobs.

“While we agree that it is likely safer for these vulnerable persons to be away from their abusers, it is not ok if they have no control over their finances. To turn this horrible situation into a positive, we saw this as a chance to reach out to Instacart and DoorDash to ask them to help,” Hawkins said.

In response, Instacart and DoorDash have collaborated with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation to provide resources and hotlines for victims of these abuses on their apps. These messages and resources are potentially life-saving to victims who may use the app, and they are particularly important during this time when the number of outreach efforts to both sex trafficking and domestic violence victims have declined due to the pandemic. Instacart has also recommended the National Center on Sexual Exploitation as a resource.

“The safety of all members of the shopper community is our top priority at Instacart. We always want to ensure that shoppers have the resources they need to help keep them safe, and we’re grateful for the work of organizations like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation to support individuals in their time of need,” said Instacart.

“DoorDash’s top priorities are the physical and economic health of our community, and we’re honored to partner with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation to support the safety and wellbeing of Dashers during this difficult time,” said Jerry Ruoti, Director of Trust and Safety at DoorDash. “This heartbreaking abuse was something we knew we had to act on immediately. We will continue to do everything we can to promote the health and safety of those we serve through our platform while providing meaningful, flexible earning opportunities during this time of economic crisis.”

“The entire gig economy, and all companies, should follow their example on this matter,” Hawkins added.

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