NCOSE honors Instacart, Doordash for anti-trafficking efforts amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sex trafficking
A sex trafficking victim waits for customers. |

A national anti-porn advocacy organization is setting in motion a campaign recognizing nonprofit groups, companies and people who are defending human dignity from any form of sexual exploitation.

As part of its Dignity Defense Campaign, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation is recognizing Instacart and Doordash for their efforts in combating trafficking and other sexual abuse.

“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, in a statement Thursday.

The organization has been alerting Door Dash and Instacart to COVID-19 trends where exploiters like traffickers and pimps have been coercing victims into entering the gig economy — a labor market marked by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance jobs as opposed to permanent employment — and then turn over any profits they earn to their abusers. NCOSE learned of this phenomenon from direct service providers who were reaching out to sex trafficking victims.

The recent pandemic and the public health measures that were instituted to prevent further spread of COVID-19 appeared to decrease demand for commercial sex when it first began, and with it fewer profits for exploiters, NCOSE explained.

Numerous reports have indicated that the pandemic yielded increased domestic violence rates as victims were quarantined in their homes with their abusers, and the organization was similarly informed that intimate partners have pushed their victims into taking gig economy jobs.

To combat the exploitation, both Instacart and DoorDash collaborated with NCOSE to provide resources and hotlines for victims of these abuses on their apps.

“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,” Instacart said in a statement.

Jerry Ruoti, director of Trust and Safety at DoorDash, said that his company'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.”

"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.”

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