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Sex Trafficking / Pornography

Google’s Quick Response to CWA’s Concerns

By | Beverly LaHaye Institute, News and Events, Sex Trafficking / Pornography, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

googlebinocularsOn May 8, a group of pro-family activists and scholars met with representatives from the Google AdWords Team. The Google team knew that for a couple of years they had been on the PornHarms “Dirty Dozen” list of corporations for enabling the distribution of pornography and the growth of the pornography industry. Read More

A Thriving Trade in Buying and Selling Virginity

By | Beverly LaHaye Institute, Blog, News and Events, Sex Trafficking / Pornography, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

cambodiangirlA recent feature article in Marie Claire magazine explores Cambodia’s big business of buying and selling a young girl’s virginity. Most frequently, it’s the desperate mother who sells her daughter’s virginity to a rich businessman who requires a doctor’s certification that she is, indeed, a virgin and is free of disease. Read More

Florida “Safe Harbor” Law Facing Problems

By | Beverly LaHaye Institute, News and Events, Sex Trafficking / Pornography | No Comments

publishedonbarbwire“Safe harbor” laws in relation to minors found in prostitution are in vogue. Several states have passed them, no two created equal. Some states decriminalize prostitution for minors — meaning selling sex is no longer a crime for minors to engage in, but it is still a crime for others to buy sex from them (johns) or to force them to sell sex (traffickers). Other states keep prostitution criminalized for minors but divert them (either automatically or through judicial/prosecutorial discretion) to restoration and rehabilitation programs.

Whichever path a state chooses, it is done ostensibly with the best interests of the child in mind and the intent to get them away from their exploiter. However, sometimes the best of intentions leads to unintended consequences.

Florida went the way of decriminalization with the Florida Safe Harbor Act of 2012. It is not blatant, wherein they changed the Florida statutes to prohibit the charging of minors with a prostitution offense, as was done in Illinois, Tennessee, Vermont, and Connecticut (Connecticut under the age of 16). Rather, Florida chose to declare sexually exploited children be treated as dependent children. That means that when a police officer takes a child they believe to be sexually exploited into custody, they are required to take them directly to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), not to the police station. If the child has no parent, legal guardian, or an adult relative capable of “providing the necessary and appropriate supervision and care,” the DCF may place the child into an authorized short-term safe house.

So far, this sounds like a good and compassionate plan. The child was taken away from their exploiter, not charged with a crime, and kept safe in a place where they can begin to heal. In a perfect world, this is the outcome everyone wants.

The reality in Florida, however, was different, and DCF is finding out that not every minor is willing to stay in a safe house. The Florida Senate’s Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement for SPB 7088 (2014), a bill that seeks to establish a secure environment for the victims, describes some of the problems arising from the Safe Harbor Act. The analysis found:

Serving victims of human trafficking presents challenges for a variety of reasons. These children often do not see themselves as exploited or victims and, thus, will not self-identify. Instead, they often develop a “trauma bond” with the traffickers, and see themselves as a companion to the trafficker. These children often run away from their placements, including from safe houses. In a DJJ [Department of Juvenile Justice] pilot program, DJJ found that of 64 percent of children who were confirmed victims of commercial exploitation had a history of over 5 instances of running away. Victims may also try to recruit other children from their placements to go work for the pimp.

To their credit, Florida lawmakers are not wasting any time trying to fix the problem for the more difficult cases. Senate Bill 7088 seeks, in part, to fund one secure safe house pilot project, which would “have security features to prevent any entry into or exit from the facility or its grounds without the involvement of staff. The bill specifies that these features may include, but are not limited to, walls, fencing, gates and locking doors.”

The lawmakers are trying to help “those sexually exploited children with the greatest needs and for whom no less restrictive placement has been or will be effective in addressing the effects of severe abuse, violence, trauma, or exploiter control endured by the child.” The lawmakers are also trying to protect minors in less restrictive facilities from being recruited by others within the facility to go work for their pimps. Pimps exploit the “trauma bond” for recruiting purposes, too.

Unfortunately for the lawmakers, the 2012 law created a situation wherein the minors’ 14th Amendment rights (due process) would be violated if they are put into a secure safe house that they cannot voluntarily leave. In a move of compassion, lawmakers wanted to treat sexually exploited children as victims, not criminals, but they ignored the fact that criminal charges might actually protect the children.

Concerned Women for America (CWA) raised the issue from the beginning of the “safe harbor” trend, urging lawmakers to consider that the absence of charges pending against a minor means states cannot hold them against their will in a safe house, rehabilitation center, or treatment program, even if it is for their own good and protection. CWA has been vilified for this position, but as Florida’s experience bears out, it was the truth.

The only state thus far that seems to have gotten it right is Massachusetts. In 2011, Massachusetts House Bill 3808 became law. Sexually exploited children in Massachusetts may be charged with prostitution, but they are automatically diverted to treatment programs. Upon successful completion of the program, the charges are dropped. This way the state can legally provide the minors the help they need.

Critics of laws like the one in Massachusetts claim that anything short of decriminalization of prostitution for minors is cruel and unjust. Criticism in Florida of SPB 7088 has begun. Malika Saada Saar, co-founder and executive director of Human Rights for Girls Project, believes the bill amounts to violating the child’s human rights. Lawanda Ravoira, president and CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, said, “It mirrors what happened to her in trafficking.”

In defense of SPB 7088, Rep. Gayle Harrell, (R-Stuart), chair of the Florida House Healthy Families Subcommittee, said, “It is not incarceration by any stretch of the imagination. They will receive therapy. They will receive a warm, loving environment.”

So the argument comes down to how best to help the victims. It is unclear how a voluntary program that allows a victim to leave a care facility to run back to her pimp is helpful. Other states considering safe harbor laws that decriminalize prostitution for minors should take note of Florida’s situation.

 

New Jersey “Safe Harbor” Law Provides a Lesson in Unintended Consequences

By | Beverly LaHaye Institute, Commentary, News and Events, Sex Trafficking / Pornography | No Comments

AlsoOnAmericanThinkerImagine you are a sexual predator arriving for Super Bowl XLVII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and finding out it is now legal for minors to sell sex or to sell someone else for sex to a third party. This would be a dream come true for pimps, traffickers, and johns.

If the Super Bowl had been in New Jersey in February 2013 instead of this year, that would have been the case.

You are probably thinking this must be made up, but it is a true story. The background provides a lesson in unintended consequences. New Jersey legislators tried to help minors found in prostitution, but their efforts went awry.

In 2011, the legislators in New Jersey decided to try their hand at enacting “safe harbor” provisions. Many states have passed “safe harbor” laws, in an attempt to protect minor victims of sex trafficking. Some states (IL, NE, TN) consider decriminalizing prostitution for minors (meaning a minor found in prostitution cannot be charged with the crime of prostitution) as the best course of action. Some other states have varying degrees of provisions for minors, from exempting minors under the age of 15 from arrest to diverting the minors into treatment programs or into the child welfare system, instead of juvenile detention.

Decriminalizing prostitution for minors makes it easier for pimps to exploit them. If a police officer finds a minor in prostitution, all the minor has to say is they have no pimp (even if they do) and, legally, they are allowed to continue. What do you think pimps would tell victims to say in this situation?

Unfortunately for New Jersey, they managed to do more than decriminalize prostitution for minors. They also decriminalized pimping for minors.

On January 17, 2012, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed S-2599 and S-2763 into law as P.L. 2011, c.195. Part of the law amended New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A.) 2C:34-1, “Prostitution and Related Offenses.” In a misguided attempt to help minor victims of trafficking, New Jersey’s affirmative defense language was changed (the underlined portion was the new language) to read:

It is an affirmative defense to prosecution for a violation of this section that, during the time of the alleged commission of the offense, the defendant was a victim of human trafficking pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2005, c.77 (C.2C:13-8) or the defendant was under the age of 18.

It is not clear whether the legislators realized that they were allowing minors to claim an affirmative defense for all the offenses in the section, which included “Promoting prostitution” (pimping). Under the 2011 law, just the fact of being a minor under 18 years of age was a sufficient defense to a charge of prostitution or pimping. The result: prostitution and pimping were decriminalized in New Jersey for minors.

While doing research on the topic in the summer of 2012, Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) Beverly LaHaye Institute came across this law and immediately asked CWA’s legislative department to contact Gov. Christie’s office to ask about it. The Governor’s office requested more information, so CWA sent an explanation of the faulty language and recommended that the New Jersey legislature:

  • Repeal the decriminalization of prostitution and pimping for minors
  • Keep prostitution criminalized for all people, and allow for all charges to be dropped for minors after successful completion of rehabilitation and treatment services
  • Put an affirmative defense for all victims of sex trafficking, regardless of age, in place instead of decriminalization for minor victims of sex trafficking
  • Add an expungement of records section for those who have been convicted of prostitution or loitering

Lo and behold, CWA was heard!

In October 2012, “The Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act” (A-3352) was introduced, and it was signed into law in May 2013 as P.L. 2013, c.51. The affirmative defense provision was changed to eliminate the decriminalization of prostitution and pimping for minors. The law now affords a defense to all sex trafficking victims regardless of age. It reads:

It is an affirmative defense to prosecution for a violation of this section that, during the time of the alleged commission of the offense, the defendant was a victim of human trafficking pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2005, c.77 (C.2C:13-8) or compelled by another to engage in sexual activity, regardless of the defendant’s age.

Victims of sex trafficking were given other provisions to help them towards rehabilitation and restoration. The bill added a section to the New Jersey statutes that allows for convictions to be vacated “when the person’s participation in the offense was a result of having been a victim of human trafficking.” In addition, the law established the “Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund” to help provide services to victims, and it will be funded by fines paid by convicted traffickers.

There is another step New Jersey could take to help get minor victims into treatment and services.

CWA supports the Massachusetts model, which keeps prostitution criminalized for persons of any age.  However, minors arrested for prostitution are diverted into treatment and rehabilitation programs. Upon successful completion of these programs, the charges against them are dropped. CWA supports this model, because it protects minors who do not self-identify as victims (they believe their pimps love them and are not exploiting them) to give them a chance to get the help they need, and it allows judicial discretion to remain in the process.

CWA applauds Gov. Christie and the New Jersey legislature for correcting flawed legislation. As the Super Bowl rapidly approaches, there are stories about the all-out effort New Jersey is taking to prevent sex trafficking during the event. If prostitution and pimping had remained decriminalized for minors, predators would have been the ones finding safe harbor at the Super Bowl. Instead, let’s hope law enforcement officers will use New Jersey’s laws to kick those predators through the goalposts of a prison cell.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article was published on American Thinker. Click here to read it.