Men arrested for buying sex from underage girls are not eligible for a court diversion program, The Salvation Army says despite what Winnipeg police claim.
“They go straight to court,” said Hennes Doltze, who oversees the Prostitution Offender Program in Manitoba’s capital.
Doltze contacted APTN News after Winnipeg police said the option of attending his program was one reason they don’t publicly name people arrested for buying sex from underage girls.
Sgt. Rick McDougall said the counter-exploitation unit recently arrested 34 men “who choose to exploit the vulnerable and underaged for sexual services.”
He said the men were buying services from females on the street whose average age was 13.
But since they have the option of attending the program – and seeing their charge stayed upon successfully completion – McDougall said it wasn’t fair to name them.
Plus, police usually hold off identifying the accused until they’re formally charged.
But Doltze wanted to clarify whom his program accepts.
“When people hear, ‘Oh, somebody gets to go to that Prostitution Offender Program,’ that they think it’s for people who would target minors,” he said.
“I want to make sure that people understand this is for somebody who’s trying to purchase sex from an adult.”
Hennes Doltze runs the Prostitution Offender Program in Winnipeg. (Submitted photo)
Doltze said the one-day seminar costs the offender $800. But he won’t be admitted unless he is accountable for his actions.
“Because we are a program that requires people to accept responsibility they essentially have to say, ‘Yes, I did try to buy sex from an adult.’
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, this was all a misunderstanding. And I thought she was looking for directions or for a ride.’ If somebody says that then they would not be eligible.
“They have to essentially plead guilty although I don’t use that term because we’re not a courtroom.”
Doltze rejected the notion it was special treatment to escape conviction. He said diversion programs exist for a wide variety of crimes, including obtaining sexual services for consideration.
He said where a judge usually levies a fine, his program challenges men’s attitudes about women and girls in the sex trade and educates them about the crime.
“It highlights a side the men never saw before or choose not to see,” he added.
“It puts a human face to it, and it shifts the focus from them seeing (women) as an object they can use for their own gratification to a person with feelings.
“It’s very impactful. We also talk about missing and murdered women because that’s often a connection that’s overlooked.”
Doltze said participants hear from speakers with different perspectives on the sex trade and its violent, coercive, criminal elements.
“A large percentage of the men are not terrible predators that come out of the swamp,” he noted.
“They are often either ignorant to the issue or they do not take into account the impact their actions have.”
He said perpetrators hail from all economic, educational and ethnic backgrounds, as well as neighborhoods in the city. Some are in relationships, some have children, and most have post-secondary education and jobs.
“The only common denominator in this program, is that the guys are men,” Doltze said.
“It’s not one specific type of male.”
McDougall said during the sweep police arrested men between the ages of 18 and 83. Doltze said the most common age to buy sex is between the ages of 41 and 54.
Although he said he once had a 17-year-old male in the program.
Doltze praised provincial and municipal justice officials for being proactive and addressing the crime from the demand side.
But he couldn’t say whether his program, which accepts about 120 people annually, works better than a court appearance.
He said the program is for first-time offenders only.
“If people do get re-arrested again or charged with the same offence – it is court. And it is pretty much guaranteed (that) will lead to a conviction.”
He said he was “torn” about the value of naming offenders publicly, unsure it would deter men yet confident it would destroy their families and careers.
APTN asked federal political parties where they stood on the issue of naming sex buyers.
Here’s what they said:
Green Party: First to reply and submit a written response.
“People who commit sex offences involving children are added to the sex offender registry and have special reporting requirements, whether the child is a prostitute or not. The Green Party of Canada has no policy about naming offenders.”
Liberal Party: Replied, promised a response, did not send a submission.
New Democratic Party: No response.
Conservative Party: No response.
Peoples Party of Canada: No response.
Manitoba Justice said the Prostitution Offender Program was formerly known as “John school” and has been around for about 20 years.
A spokesperson said the department has a wide range of restorative justice and diversion programs that accept about 5,000 people annually.