Policy Issues

Informing policy, protecting victims and holding offenders more accountable is critical in the fight against trafficking. To achieve this, a guideline has been created which is titled the Protected Innocence Legislative Framework. This allows a step-by-step assessment that identifies which laws are currently in place and those that need to be improved or developed.

An anti-trafficking legislative framework is the foundation for all efforts to combat domestic minor sex trafficking. It is the starting point for a holistic approach to ending domestic minor sex trafficking as well as all other forms of modern-day slavery. Anti-trafficking federal laws are comprehensive and contain severe penalties. It is essential that state laws are as comprehensive and severe in penalties as the federal laws to advance a full criminal deterrence program. Read “A Legislative Framework for Combating Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking”, [link to report] authored by Shared Hope International’s Linda Smith and Samantha Healy Vardaman, and published recently in the Regent University Law Review.

Four primary policy issues must be addressed in order to combat domestic minor sex trafficking:

  1. Eliminating demand
  2. Prosecuting traffickers
  3. Identifying victims
  4. Providing protection, access to services, and shelter for victims

1. Eliminating Demand: Buyers are not being recognized as a critical component in the sex trafficking of children, yet demand is the primary driver of the commercial sex industry within which children are being exploited.

2. Prosecuting Traffickers: Frequently, the arrest and prosecution of the trafficker is based solely on the victim’s cooperation in the investigation and testimony at trial. This approach, however, can place a heavy burden on a domestic minor sex trafficking victim, who typically requires a lengthy amount of time before they will disclose the facts of their victimization. Therefore, it is critical for law enforcement officers to pursue innovative and/or alternative investigation techniques to corroborate the victims’ allegations in domestic minor sex trafficking cases.

3. Identifying Victims: Misidentification of victims is the primary barrier to victim rescue and law enforcement response to domestic minor sex trafficking. Misidentification causes a chain reaction of negative outcomes, the most significant of which is the failure to deliver the necessary services to interrupt and treat the trauma these children have endured. The problem occurs at all levels of first response from law enforcement arrests on the street, to the intake processes of homeless and runaway youth shelters, to court adjudication of victims as juvenile delinquents for habitual runaway, drug possession, or other offenses committed in connection with the prostitution of the child.

4. Providing Protection, Access to Services, and Shelter for Victims: Law enforcement officers express frustration with the fact that they are often compelled to charge a domestic minor sex trafficking victim with a delinquency offense, such as prostitution, in order to detain her and to keep her safe from the trafficker. Detention, however, is detrimental to the victim in that she rarely receives any services in detention, much less services specific to the trauma endured through sex trafficking. Due to the unique trauma bonding that occurs between a victim and her trafficker, these children often run from juvenile facilities right back to the person that exploited them.

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