Why Some State’s Stricter Laws Are Creating a Threat of Trafficking for Others
WASHINGTON, D.C., As large events and expanding industries draw thousands of new visitors, a new study by Shared Hope International finds states like North Dakota and Montana enacted aggressive laws to confront the heightened threat of child sex trafficking while states like California continue to suffer critical gaps in state laws to address the crime.
In North Dakota, the booming oil industry drew over 100,000 new employees, primarily men, away from home, for high-paying jobs. This surge of men with disposable incomes in an area that is disproportionately male-dominate threatened to fuel an emerging commercial sex industry. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, violent crime, including murder, aggravated assault, forcible rape, and robbery, increased by 125% between 2005 and 2013 in the area. In 2011, Shared Hope International gave North Dakota an “F” grade on the Protected Innocence Challenge report cards for the sufficiency of state laws to combat child sex trafficking–leaving the state vulnerable to a wave of potential buyers with limited ability to deter the crime and protect victims. However, in 2015, North Dakota bolstered its protective provisions for child sex trafficking victims. This year, North Dakota earned a “B” on the Protected Innocence Challenge report card.
Montana, also vulnerable to the threat of increased trafficking due to its proximity to the Bakken region, overhauled its laws in 2015 to address the issue. Montana earned a mere 60 per cent on the 2014 Protected Innocence Challenge report card. After the sweeping legislative advancements in 2015, Montana climbed to a 90 per cent, and is now one of only six states in the nation to earn an “A” grade.
In contrast, California has consistently fallen in last place in the Protected Innocence Challenge–climbing from 41 per cent to 65 per cent between 2011 and 2015. The state struggles to overcome a difficult fiscal environment and a federal mandate banning an increase in criminal statutes. This limits the state’s ability to enact tougher laws that would impose increased penalties or felony convictions, actions that could cause fiscal triggers. In response, activists have developed work-around solutions, reprogramming state efforts to target system responses. However, as California prepares to host the 2016 Super Bowl, the state has not improved its laws to handle an increase in trafficking crimes, especially demand. Increasing the population of men who could be commercial sex consumers, compounded by weak state laws to deter the crime could entice traffickers to the region to meet the demand for this illicit business.
“As states strengthen laws, enabling more aggressive investigation and prosecution; traffickers may be searching for states with lower risk and greater tolerance. We cannot afford to leave our children vulnerable to traffickers because the state hasn’t caught up to the crime.” Linda Smith, President and Founder of Shared Hope International said.
The Protected Innocence Challenge was created to address key legislative gaps and makes recommendations for improvement so states can strengthen laws and implement effective state response. See all state grades at www.sharedhope.org/reportcards.
703.351.8062 office / 602.818.3955 cell
For media convenience, a variety of video clips and resources, including sex trafficking survivor comments, are available at this location: https://vimeo.com/user12564384/videos. Videos are password protected, please enter password sharedmedia1 to access media clips.
Shared Hope International is an anti-trafficking organization focusing on prevention, restoration and justice for victims of sex trafficking. Founded in 1998 by Congresswoman Linda Smith, Shared Hope is a trusted leader for training, research, restorative development, and legislative development