Following six years of examining best practices, supporting states in enacting strong child sex trafficking laws, and engaging with legislators, survivors, concerned citizens, and professionals, we have found ourselves at the crossroads of “what gaps remain?” and “how do we fill them?”. The last six years have encompassed enormous progress in the way states are legislatively addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC)–– in six years, state grades under the Protected Innocence Challenge rose from 26 “F” states in 2011, to zero “F” states and 30 “A” and “B” states in 2016. Following six years of legislative advocacy and providing technical support to legislators, almost half of U.S. states and D.C. now recognize children engaged in commercial sex as victims in need of services, rather than criminals or delinquent youth. This is enormous progress and we will continue celebrating these achievements from the highest of mountain tops!
However, the last six years have not eradicated domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). Until every child in the U.S. is insulated from this horrendous crime, we will continue marching towards justice and protection. While federal law clearly applies to the conduct of buyers, only 11 states expressly recognize buyers of sex with children as perpetrators of sex trafficking. More than 50% of states deem children engaged in commercial sex as delinquents deserving of punishments, rather than victims worthy of justice. And while 19 states and DC do not criminalize minors for prostitution, only 7 of those states and D.C. have created statutory pathways to specialized services for all identified child victims; over 75% of states, therefore, do not have a non punitive avenue under their law to provide the specialized services necessary for a child victim to obtain holistic care and opportunities for healing, empowerment, and a childhood.
Recognizing the substantial work ahead, we are thrilled to announce the launch of our 2017 campaign to fill these gaps: Stop the InJuSTice. This campaign seeks to mobilize lawmakers, citizens, and community organizations to pave pathways for holding buyers accountable and ensuring that all child victims are afforded a protective response. But we need your help! In the next six months, we are asking citizens and legislators to increase their engagement and commitment to ensuring that these gaps do not exist in 2018. In return, Shared Hope commits to supporting at least six states in enacting legislation that specifically addresses these glaring gaps.
Here are 6 ways you as a citizen can take action!
- Help us get the word out and share our campaign images on social media
- Read your State’s 2016 Report Card
- Call your legislators and ask them to protect and prioritize child victims of sex trafficking, and support bills that aim to hold buyers accountable and ensure victim-centered responses to children.
- Share our tweets with your legislators, friends and family to spread the word.
- Become an Ambassador of Hope
- Donate to Shared Hope International to ensure we can continue our fight for justice.
Legislators: Commit to engaging with Shared Hope’s policy team to identify gaps in your state’s laws and craft legislation to fill these holes. Email us to request a consultation with a member of our policy team.
Ambassadors of Hope: Participate in a training created specifically for you! Our communications manager and policy team have put together a training and toolkit to equip our Ambassadors with the background, knowledge, and confidence to advocate for the bills that Shared Hope is supporting. From learning how to most effectively share our materials, to navigating our Legislative Action Center site, we are striving to ensure that all of our Ambassadors have the support they need to be champions in their communities.
Please join Shared Hope in ensuring that 2017 is the year that we Stop the InJuSTICE! We look forward to working with you to create a safer, more just world for our children.