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Talking Points: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010 (S. 2925 RS)

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Concerned Women for America (CWA) believes that minors found in prostitution are sexually exploited, be it by a pimp or a john. CWA also believes that leaving criminal prostitution laws in place for minors allows for judicial and prosecutorial discretion in each case and is a layer of protection between the minor and their exploiter.

1.CWA believes in keeping the prostitution laws in place, even for minors, but adding an affirmative defense to the law and the option of diverting minors into services, such as medical or counseling, while their cases are pending and upon successful completion of the services, dismiss their cases.

Finding (3) notes that gangs are increasingly involved in sex trafficking young girls, because it is just as lucrative as drug trafficking and has a lower chance of criminal conviction.

If that is the case, why does the bill seek to decriminalize prostitution for minors in Section 3 and Section 6? Leaving laws in place creates another layer of protection for victims. The laws enable police to investigate these crimes and intercede. Sometimes taking a girl into custody allows her to be separated from her pimp long enough to get her help. Keeping the laws on the books does not mean a girl must be charged, prosecuted, or jailed, but it does allow for law enforcement involvement.

In fact, the 2008 Uniform Crime Reports shows that the police are not arresting great numbers of minors for prostitution and commercialized vice crimes. There were 1,158 arrests of minors under the age of 18 for prostitution in 2008 just two percent of all arrests. Of those, 129 were under the age of 15.

Currently, pimps and gangs tell exploited minors to lie to the police and say they are over 18 if they are stopped. If safe harbor laws are put into place, the exploiters will tell the minors and young-looking adults to tell the police they are under 18 and choose to prostitute and that no one is forcing or coercing them.Finding (9) states that 75 percent of minors in prostitution have pimps. Affirmative defense clauses and diversion programs would be more effective in helping pimped minors than decriminalization.

2.CWA believes giving restitution, as opposed to victim compensation funds, to victims from their exploiters deters traffickers as it cuts into profits and empowers victims to testify against their exploiters.

Finding (13) and Section 3 discuss making compensation funds available to minor victims. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (Wilberforce Act) has a provision [Section 4(a)] for victims to receive restitution from their exploiters. Receiving restitution means that their exploiters were pursued, caught, prosecuted, sentenced, and fined for their crimes. That serves as an incentive for law enforcement to make victim care a priority so that they will testify against their exploiters. Making victim compensation funds available does nothing to deter sex trafficking (which is part of the title of this bill) and costs the taxpayers money, whereas restitution provisions make the pimps pay. If the law makes it more difficult for them to earn money, they will be less inclined to engage in pimping. The gang example proves this point; there is less risk and greater profit for them to sell a human being over and over again as opposed to being able to sell drugs only once.

3.CWA believes the Department of Justice (DOJ) should train local and state law enforcement in how to recognize and establish relationships with trafficking victims so that they may participate in prosecuting their exploiters.CWA also believes that the 2005 law language should remain as it was written, and DOJ should be held accountable for not undertaking these provisions which would go after traffickers and their profits and take steps towards ending demand.

Section 4 changes the meaning of an entire section of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 and lets the Department of Justice off the hook for never seeking appropriations from the 2005 law and the TVPRA 2008 [42 USC 14044c], appropriations which would have trained state and local law enforcement officers to recognize trafficking victims, learn how to establish a relationship of trust with them so that the victims will participate in prosecutions of traffickers, and to go after demand (for without demand, sex trafficking ends).

However, the DOJ has chosen to ignore this section of the law and the $50,000,000 (for FY2006 and 2007) and $20,000,000 (for FY 2008-2011) annual authorizations for these programs. The new legislation actually has a provision that is counter to the TVPRA 2005 intention of establishing relationships to encourage testimony.S. 2925 RS states, (iv) provides an assurance that, under the plan under clause (iii), a minor victim of sex trafficking shall not be required to collaborate with law enforcement to have access to any shelter or services provided with a grant under this section. In addition, the new language lumps these law enforcement provisions together with the sheltering provisions as something the grant money may go towards, but does not require it.

4.CWA believes decriminalization will make victims more vulnerable to pimps and exploiters. Keep the laws in place, and use them to advocate for more services and as incentives for victims to go through treatment programs. Many survivors say that the first step towards getting out of the life was police intervention.

Section 6 promotes decriminalizing prostitution for minors but acknowledges that there are not sufficient shelters or programs to handle all the victims. Without legal ramifications, participation is voluntary, and many victims do not see themselves as victims they think they are in a loving relationship with their pimp and, therefore, will run away from shelters or, worse, recruit for their pimps while in them. The bill seeks to establish six new shelters. What happens to victims in states and localities that have no shelters? They cannot be sheltered and given access to services through the legal system because this law decriminalizes prostitution for minors. Thus, they are left to return to the street.Judges and prosecutors will not advocate on their behalf because they will never be in contact with them, at least for prostitution offenses.Law enforcement will not make minors in prostitution cases a priority because their chief witnesses to the crimes of pimps and traffickers, the prostituted, are removed from the equation. If law enforcement wants the prostituted to testify against the exploiters, they are going to have to treat them well and advocate for more shelters and services.Under decriminalization, law enforcement does not have the opportunity to separate them from their pimps and establish a trust relationship.