A New Study by Shared Hope International Finds Critical Gaps in State Laws
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Hawaii and Virginia were the last two states in the nation without a law specifically criminalizing sex trafficking; however, 2015 legislative gains in Virginia left Hawaii behind. According to a new study by Shared Hope International, Hawaii and Virginia both suffer critical gaps in state laws addressing child sex trafficking. Both states earned a mere “D” on the Protected Innocence Challenge state report cards that measure sufficiency of state child sex trafficking laws. While Virginia and Hawaii have significant room for improvement, Virginia’s new sex trafficking law is a major advancement in state response.
In March 2015, after an aggressive advocacy campaign led by the Kids Are Not For Sale in Virginia coalition, Virginia enacted its first sex trafficking law. The bill, championed by Chief Patron Delegate Timothy Hugo (HB 1964) and Chief Patron Senator Mark Obenshain (SB 1188), closed the critical gap in Virginia law. In July, Virginia made its first arrest under the new law.
In 2010 and 2015, Hawaii attempted to pass its first law specifically criminalizing sex trafficking. It failed on both attempts. Last year, Hawaii Governor Ige vetoed SB 265 which could have been Hawaii’s first sex trafficking law. The Governor cited criticisms of the bill by opponents whose own conduct has been under scrutiny for harmful treatment of possible sex trafficking victims. Hawaii is expected to revisit the issue in 2016.
“While both states have significant room for improvement in state laws to protect children from trafficking,” Linda Smith, President and Founder of Shared Hope International said. “Virginia took a major leap forward, leaving Hawaii in the national hot seat as the only state in the nation without a sex trafficking law.”
Shared Hope International launched the Protected Innocence Challenge, an annual evaluation of the sufficiency of state laws that impact child sex trafficking, in 2011 to provide accountability and legislative direction for states. Previously, many states relied on federal statutes to address the crime; yet, many trafficking crimes were not accepted for federal prosecution, forcing states to handle the cases locally and relying on weak or insufficient laws. Over half the nation earned failing scores on the inaugural 2011 report card. Since then, 47 states have raised their grade.
Shared Hope International
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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