Shared Hope International Introduces Advanced Level State Report Cards
- The majority of states + D.C. have “D” (10) or “F” (40) grades
- FL receives highest grade, a “C”
- Only 8 states fully protect trafficked children from arrest, detention, charging and prosecution for prostitution offenses
WASHINGTON, D.C., (November 17, 2021) — Shared Hope International, dedicated non-profit leader in the fight to eradicate domestic minor sex trafficking, today released year-one of a grading system that will be sure to get attention. Report Cards on Child & Youth Sex Trafficking introduces advanced level analysis that builds upon the previous 10-year grading project, one that realized a 25.6% improvement nationwide in basic anti-trafficking legislation responding to domestic minor sex trafficking. Now, the advanced analysis provides a blueprint for action for motivated legislatures by identifying deficiencies in state child trafficking laws that remain in place. Published as a report card for each state, the 2021 Report Cards on Child & Youth Sex Trafficking encourages redoubled effort to tackle the hardest elements of responses that will protect juvenile sex trafficking survivors and hold buyers and traffickers accountable.
Due to the high bar that has been set with this grading system, 39 states and the District of Columbia (DC) earned a failing grade in 2021, the launch year for the advanced analysis. In comparison, the first year of the basic level report cards ten years ago found 26 states with a grade of “F” but nine years later every state had improved significantly; there were no “F”s and only two “D”s. While this seems like a step back, this year’s low grades reflect a starting point for states to advance beyond the tremendous progress they made over the past 10 years. The new framework also responds to calls from stakeholders to raise the bar, especially in the area of victim protections where many states lagged behind. Notably, Florida, the only state to receive full credit for its victim protection laws under the Protected Innocence Challenge framework, is now the top scoring state under the Report Cards on Child & Youth Sex Trafficking Advanced Legislative Framework.
Tennessee, which had previously held the #1 spot under the Protected Innocence Challenge Framework, remained in Tier 1, largely due to aggressive efforts in the 2021 session to enact laws that directly addressed the Advanced Legislative Framework. “Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined this new framework. We’ve listened to survivors, we’ve learned, and now we go forward with new knowledge to improve Tennessee’s response,” said Margie Quin, CEO of End Slavery Tennessee. “Through historic investments in law enforcement and public-private partnerships to serve survivors, Tennessee is at the forefront of this important fight,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Human trafficking has no place in our state, and we are committed to building on our progress, improving laws, and protecting the most vulnerable among us.”
At the announcement of Report Card grades, Shared Hope will honor two individuals with the Pathbreaker Award for persistent and brave advocacy in ending the criminalization of child sex trafficking victims. Child and youth victims continue to be help criminally culpable for offenses committed while being trafficked, a practice which has led to incarceration of untold numbers of unidentified survivors of child sex trafficking. Ohio Senator Teresa Fedor has worked tirelessly to change the state law to focus criminality on the traffickers and the buyers of sex with children. Alexis Keerica Martin was trafficked at 15 and then convicted of murder and felonious assault in connection with the death of her trafficker. She now brings her lived experience to the effort to change the way systems respond to an offending victim. Her experience is a stark example of the impact legislation can have and stands as the best example of the reason Shared Hope does this work.
Senator Fedor also noted the important link between the release of the report cards, and the resulting work left to be done across the country, and the significance of the award given to her and Ms. Martin. “Like many other states, Ohio has also seen its grade drop this year because of Shared Hope’s new advanced legislative framework. This was despite the fact that last year I finally managed to extend Safe Harbor protections to 16- and 17-year-olds who have been trafficked. All Ohio children can now be rescued from the horrors of human trafficking without the fear being arrested,” said Fedor. “However, with Shared Hope’s Advanced Legislative Framework and survivors guiding my work, Ohio will raise its grade. This is urgent and will be my top priority. I have already begun to work on addressing our survivor-centered response by introducing ‘The Expanding Human Trafficking Justice Act’ (Senate Bill 183) to create a clear path to expungement for all trafficking survivors. I have spent the last 15 years fighting against human trafficking in all forms, and I am not about to give up now.”
State Action. National Change.
“At the time Shared Hope first issued report cards in 2011, 26 states did not make it a crime to buy sex with a child; today every state in the country considers sex trafficking of a minor a punishable crime,” said Linda Smith, founder and president of Shared Hope. “This is the reason we provide the sometimes uncomfortable motivation of a report card. Analyzing state laws for nearly a decade has enabled us to understand where progress is concentrated and where gaps remain. It is important to note that while the 2021 advanced legislative framework zeroes in on areas that states continue to leave unaddressed, it also provides analysis and recommendations for improvement. We trust that states will use these tools as a means to provide a better outcome for survivors of sex trafficking.”
Grades are based on an analysis of 40 legislative components that must be addressed in state laws to effectively respond to the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking.
While laudable progress has been made since 2011 with the passage of laws to criminalize selling and purchasing sex with a minor, child and youth victims often are denied access to justice and restorative services outside of the juvenile justice system. The advanced legislative framework brings heightened expectation to remedy state laws that fail to provide protective responses to victims of sex trafficking.
“We are asking states to respond to exploited youth as victims of a serious crime,” said Smith. “We recognize changing victim protection laws is a heavy lift and providing services presents resource challenges. Regardless, some states are taking the lead on this and we’re confident others will learn from their example.”
The 2021 Report Cards on Child & Youth Sex Trafficking can be accessed here.