Buyers of sex via human trafficking are mostly white, middle aged, married men with money, according to new research released by the University of Minnesota on Wednesday.
The research focuses on who is buying trafficking services and how they're buying them. Officials acknowledge it's a complex issue, but that their findings revealed some "disturbing realities."
"If you're a sex trafficker, we will all be working together in law enforcement to be coming after you," said Drew Evans, superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The study was funded by the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.
Typically, buyers travel between 30 and 60 miles to purchase "sexual experiences." Often, the transactions occur on lunch breaks or business trips, the research shows.
"We identified in this research some very serious harms and crimes that are committed within the marketplace for commercial sex," said Lauren Martin of the university's Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center.
The research shows most buyers don't know if the person with whom they're engaging has been trafficked.
"This kind of methodology was necessary because sex buying is hidden, illegal, stigmatized and, without this basic lay of the land, it's impossible to do a representative sample," Martin said.
Researchers interviewed more than 150 members of law enforcement, prosecutors, and social service providers in four states in conducting the study.