WASHINGTON, D.C. – Child sex trafficking affects an estimated 100,000 American children each year in the U.S. but Florida is fighting back. Florida improved its laws to address child sex trafficking every year since 2011. Today, anti-trafficking organization Shared Hope International released its fourth annual study on the state of child sex trafficking laws in America. The research found that Florida scored an 87.5 per cent on the report, up from 71.5 per cent in 2011. The improvements in Florida’s law reflect the commitment of key stakeholders in addressing the issue. Watch the release of the state grades.
“Florida is determined to end the trafficking of our kids,” Representative Gayle Harrell (FL-83) said. “Shared Hope’s report card for Florida provides guidance to help keep us on track with keeping our kids safe from the predators who seek to steal their innocence. We will be examining the report carefully and introducing legislation to make our laws even stronger.”
While Florida has made substantial law changes in four years, the state has more work to do. Earning nearly a perfect score on most categories of the assessment, Florida must strengthen criminal provisions addressing demand and protective provisions for child victims. Florida’s human trafficking statute provides substantial penalties for buyers, individuals who purchase sex acts from minors and fuel the sex trafficking industry by making it a profitable market. However, in a recent study by Shared Hope International which documented criminal justice outcomes for buyers of sex acts with minors in four target site locations, no buyers were convicted under state sex trafficking laws. Florida offers other applicable laws for buyers, including “Lewd or lascivious battery” which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison but only if the minor is younger than 16. Buyers who purchase sex with 16 or 17-year-old minors only face up to 60 days in prison under Florida’s “patronizing a prostitute” statute, failing to protect victims and deter those who seek to purchase sex with minors.
The Protected Innocence Challenge was first conducted in 2011 and found 26 states earned failing scores. However, after four years of sweeping legislative advancements, 42 states have raised their grade. Three states, Louisiana, Tennessee and Washington, have earned “A” grades. Only nine states have not raised their grade since 2011 and California, Maine, Michigan and South Dakota are the only remaining states earning failing scores.