WASHINGTON, D.C., Washington’s laws pertaining to child sex trafficking were named some of the strongest in the nation, according to a new study by Shared Hope International. The Protected Innocence Challenge reports on the sufficiency of state laws relating to domestic minor sex trafficking. Washington earned a 92.5 per cent and is one of only three states in the nation with an “A” grade. Watch the release of the state grades.
Washington has consistently been at the forefront of enacting state laws that protect minor victims of domestic minor sex trafficking and bringing justice to those who have been exploited. Washington created the first state Task Force Against Trafficking of Persons in 2002. It was one of the earliest states to enact a state trafficking law in 2003. In 2007, Washington overhauled its laws criminalizing commercial sexual exploitation of children by removing these penalties from the prostitution context and clarifying that these are crimes of sexual exploitation. In 2013, Washington law enforcement called on the state to further strengthen laws to enable greater accountability for buyers of sex with minors. In response, Senator Mike Padden championed a comprehensive anti-trafficking bill that passed with unanimous bipartisan support that specifically addressed the criminalization of buyers by making the purchase or attempt to purchase sex with a minor for a commercial sex act a class B felony. Washington has the highest rate of felony convictions for buyers of sex acts with minors, based on data from four target sites in the Demanding Justice Project.
“The alliance of law enforcement and legislators tackling sex trafficking from a policy and practice perspective is what enables Washington to develop some of the toughest laws in the nation,” President and Founder of Shared Hope International Linda Smith said. “The effort to crack down on trafficking must be informed and supported by the diverse array of key stakeholders. Washington learned that and is leading by example.”
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.
Previously, many states also relied on federal statues to address the crime. However, a majority of trafficking crimes were not being accepted for federal prosecution, forcing states to handle the cases locally and relying on weak or insufficient laws. The Protected Innocence Challenge was created to respond to this dynamic. The Challenge addresses key legislative gaps and makes recommendations for improvement so states can strengthen laws and implement effective state response.