Safe Harbors for Trafficked Children
Safe Harbor laws protect children from being penalized for their own abuse and exploitation. They close the gap between existing anti-trafficking laws and those that allow for children to be prosecuted as criminals, even though they are victims of sex crimes. Only 3 states (IL pending) have changed their laws to protect exploited children from prosecution.
”I have never seen a case where a child approached an adult and said ‘Ok, can you be my pimp?’ A pimp is typically a man who has developed a relationship with her, claiming that he loves her, and this child really, truly feels that she loves this man.”
-Linda Watson, Probation Officer, DeKalb County Juvenile Justice Department
Hidden in Plain View, a study by the Atlanta Women’s Agenda, 2005, p.18
“He was real sweet at first, then he began telling me, ‘You can’t stay in this house for free.’”
-Hidden in Plain View, p. 19
Children exploited through prostitution are usually children who had been sexually and physically abused their whole lives. Once recruited into the sex trade they can be sold more than 10 times a day, 7 days a week, exposing them to sexually transmitted diseases, rape, beatings, and possibly fatal acts of violence.
Love146 holds the belief that it is unacceptable to add to the trauma these children face by threatening them with prosecution and incarceration for their own sexual exploitation and abuse.
- - An estimated 100,000 children are commercially sexually exploited in the United States each year
- and an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 are at-risk of being commercially sexually exploited.
- - Since 2008, Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families has identified over 30 child
- victims of child trafficking.
- - According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, as of October 2008 there were 236
- active runaway cases in Connecticut. Runaway youth are especially at-risk for sexual
- exploitation due to their vulnerable state.
- - Although children under 16 cannot consent to sex, they can still be prosecuted for prostitution.
- - Safe Harbor will not decriminalize prostitution. It would only strengthen law enforcement’s efforts
- to punish “johns” and traffickers, while ensuring greater protection and safety for minor victims.
- An ideal “safe harbor” law would acknowledge that commercially sexually exploited and
- trafficked children are better served in community counseling and shelter programs than juvenile
- justice lock-up facilities.
SAFE HARBOR IN CONNECTICUT
The first coordinated legislative initiative of ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking), the Barnaba Institute (BI) and Love146 resulted in a victorious passage of the historic law, Public Act 10-115, “Safe Harbor for Exploited Children.” Current CT law considers minors too young to consent to sex and yet the criminal statutes allow a minor to be prosecuted for prostitution—until now. Championed by state Senator Rob Kane, R-Watertown, the law eliminates the possibility of a sexually exploited minor under 16 being prosecuted with the crime of prostitution. It also presumes 16-17 year olds who may have otherwise been arrested and charged with prostitution are actually victims of trafficking in persons. Importantly, Safe Harbor also increases penalties for those profiting from this brutal crime. This is another important step toward ending the commercial demand for sex with children.
The three anti-trafficking organizations have long recognized the need and urgency of addressing child sex trafficking within U.S. borders. Connecticut joins New York, Washington, and Illinois as the only states so far to change their laws to protect exploited children from prosecution.
Safe Harbor in Connecticut became effective October 1, 2010.
DOWNLOAD the Barnaba Institute, ECPAT-USA, & Love146 Press Release
VIEW the CT Safe Harbor Law
DOWNLOAD the CT Safe Harbor Fact Sheet
If you are having trouble viewing these files, you may need the free Adobe Reader download.