|June 7, 2017 12:49 PM
|Representative Joseph A. Petrarca and Rep. Tarah Toohil
|All House members
|Safe Harbor in Human Trafficking
|In the near future, we will be introducing legislation (companion legislation to Senator Greenleaf’s SB 554) that will redirect the child victims of human trafficking from the criminal justice system and into child protective services.
Currently, if law enforcement encounters a child suspected of being sexually abused, a referral to Children and Youth is automatic. However, if that child is a victim of sexual exploitation, they can instead be charged with a crime and incarcerated.
As you may know, victims of child sex trafficking are not of age to consent to sexual activity with adults, yet they can still be charged with a crime for selling it. Adding the trauma of the juvenile justice system to the trauma of repeated rape does a disservice to these children. Over 100,000 children are exploited through prostitution in the United States each year. Adults psychologically manipulate these children and provide them illegal drugs.
These children are victims, not criminals, and they deserve the protection of the child welfare system, not re-victimization and incarceration in the juvenile justice system. Not only is this the right thing to do by these exploited children, it is also the most effective way to help law enforcement target the traffickers and pimps who are the real criminals.
Our legislation will impose a duty on the Department of Human Services to develop and implement a statewide protocol to deliver safe and stable housing, education and life-skills training, and counseling to the children who have been exploited. The bill will require that police officers be trained to identify and assist sexually exploited children. Most importantly, the bill will require that sexually exploited children will be diverted from the criminal justice system to more appropriate human services.
Please join us in supporting this bill by becoming a cosponsor.
Introduced as HB2289