- At least 12.3 million people are trafficked worldwide.
- More than 1 million children are victims of trafficking.
- People are trafficked in 161 countries, including the United States.
- Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide.
- On average, only 1 person is convicted for every 800 trafficking cases worldwide.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
According the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a person under 18 who is induced to perform a commercial sex act is a victim of a severe form of trafficking (22 U.S.C. 7102). Yet, under state prostitution statutes, a person engaging in a commercial sex act is committing a crime, even if that person is under 18.
These conflicting definitions send mixed messages about how our society and legal system should be treating child victims.
Even if law enforcement correctly identifies the person as under 18, police are most likely to treat her as a juvenile offender, not a victim of human trafficking. There are many reasons for this — a lack of training, lack of alternative resources for victims, and police misperceptions about what child victims experience.
By relying on the juvenile justice system, we allow an endless cycle of arrest/detention and abuse for these child victims. The cycle increases the child’s trauma as well as her distrust for the system and wastes precious time that could be used more effectively to intervene with appropriate services and support.
To correct the system’s current response to the sexual exploitation of children, some states have passed what are often called “safe harbor” laws.
Safe Harbor legislation can:
- correct the conflicts between federal and state law by exempting children from prosecution for prostitution;
- require training for law enforcement and other first responders on how to identify and assist victims;
- increase the penalties for traffickers and buyers; and
- prompt the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team to develop a statewide system of care.
Write to your congress person. Ask if Ohio has a Safe Harbor legislation and if not, why not.