Love146's Request for a Judiciary Committee vote on S.B. 153 – An Act Providing a Safe Harbor for Exploited Children:
March 16, 2010
The Honorable Michael Lawlor
Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT, 06106
RE: S.B. 153 – An Act Providing a Safe Harbor for Exploited Children
Dear Representative Lawlor:
We write on behalf of Love146, an international human rights organization dedicated to ending child sex trafficking and exploitation through prevention, advocacy, and aftercare initiatives.
We write to request that S.B. 153 – “An Act Providing a Safe Harbor for Exploited Children” be raised in the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor for a full vote. This bill, with the substitute language passed by the Select Committee on Children, will help protect Connecticut’s most vulnerable children.
S.B. 153 addresses a tragic, but often overlooked, problem in Connecticut: the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The majority of U.S. children involved in prostitution are runaways and are past victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and/or other forms of trauma. These youth are manipulated by adults to engage in sexual acts in return for a fee and are coerced into continued prostitution by sophisticated psychological, emotional, and physical means.
Recognizing that children engaged in prostitution are victims of sexual and trafficking crimes, S.B. 153: 1) prevents the prosecution of young children for the crime of prostitution, 2) makes it more difficult to criminalize older children for their position as victims of sexual exploitation, and 3) stiffens the penalty for those who promote commercial child sexual exploitation.
In practice, Connecticut law enforcement and government officials do tend to treat these children as victims rather than as criminals. The Department of Children and Families already has procedures in place to identify and serve prostituted children. However, although rare, current Connecticut law does allow children who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation to be prosecuted for the crime of prostitution.
S.B. 153 brings Connecticut statutes in line with the state’s progressive practices of treating prostituted children as victims and not as criminals. Passing this bill is necessary to ensure that now and in the future Connecticut’s child victims of commercial sexual exploitation are served appropriately.
In keeping with our belief that these vulnerable youth are victims, rather than criminals, we encourage the Judiciary Committee to improve the bill’s language by preventing prosecution for all such youth who are under the age of 18 by changing the language in Section 1(a) and thereafter deleting the presumption language for 16 and 17 year olds in Section 1(c). As the bill currently reads, children in Connecticut ages 16 and 17 could still be treated as criminals despite their victimization.
Thank you so much for your consideration of this matter. We urge you to raise and consider S.B. 153 in the Judiciary Committee and to vote it out of Committee to the Senate floor.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.
Rob Morris Kathy Maskell
President U.S. Advocacy Director