Under the Advanced Legislative Framework, released by Shared Hope International in 2020, additional focus is given to several issues of national importance, including encouraging harm prevention for survivors in the juvenile justice system, mandating trauma-informed trafficking training for relevant state agencies, and increasing access to services for minor victims. The Framework analyzes the adoption of these specific policy solutions at the state level, providing grades for each state on how their statutory law meets the defined policy goals. To support and leverage these changes at the state level, it is also important to recognize the role of the federal government in promoting the prevention of child sex trafficking and the identification and treatment of child victims.
So far in the current 117th session of Congress, a few key pieces of legislation were enacted that align with the broader goals of Shared Hope’s Advanced Legislative Framework. On December 26, 2021, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 (NDAA) which included the Debt Bondage Repair Act (DBRA). The DBRA significantly improves a survivors’ financial freedom by preventing consumer reporting agencies from releasing credit reports that contain adverse information caused by a survivor’s victimization.
Additionally, the VOCA FIX Act was enacted on June 21, 2021. This bill expanded the sources of revenue collected from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements to be deposited into the Crime Victims Fund and increased the amount of compensation awarded to victims. Generally, trafficking victims are eligible for VOCA funds in all states with varying requirements. (See Shared Hope’s Issue Brief 4.2 on crime victim compensation).
Despite the successful enactment of this legislation, there is still significant work that can be done on the federal level to address the needs of child sex trafficking victims. In particular, Shared Hope would like to highlight several necessary pieces of legislation that have yet to be enacted. These bills include:
- The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) (R.5150/H.R.6552), which provides much needed reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. This bill would implement additional measures to promote awareness of human trafficking and encourage domestic and global change to prevent future harm. The primary sponsor is Representative Smith (R-NJ).
- Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 ( 3103), which removes the statute of limitation for offenses commonly brought by victims against their traffickers. This allows for greater access to justice for trafficking victims. The primary sponsor is Senator Durbin (D-IL).
- Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2021 (R. 6479/ S. 3643), which takes several key steps toward ensuring that victims have access to the services they need through a non-punitive response. This includes training state and local governments on trafficking identification and prevention, establishing an expert working group to identify best practices in responding to human trafficking, and encouraging states to adopt certain rights and protections for victims. The primary sponsors are Representative Bass (D-CA) and Senator Gillibrand (D-NY).
- The EARN IT Act (3538/H.R.6544), which would incentivize the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously by removing immunity from online service providers that knowingly facilitate the distribution of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on their platforms. This bills also clarifies language in the federal criminal code by replacing the term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material” and establishes the National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention, comprising a diverse, bipartisan group of leaders representing the technology sector, child protection advocates, survivors, law enforcement and related fields, to develop voluntary best practices for preventing and responding to child sexual exploitation online. The primary sponsors are Representative Sylvia (D-TX) and Senator Graham (R-SC).
- Sara’s Law and the Preventing Unfair Sentencing Act (R.2858), which would authorize the court to depart from a statutory minimum in the case of a juvenile offender, youthful victim offender, and certain other minors. This bill also modifies federal sentencing courts to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum for a juvenile who was convicted of a violent offense against a person who engaged in certain conduct (e.g., trafficking, abuse, or assault) against the juvenile. The primary sponsor is Representative Westerman (R-AR).
- The Trafficking Survivors Housing Act (2049/H.R.3891), which directs the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to coordinate and consult with stakeholders to study the availability and accessibility of housing and services for survivors of trafficking or persons at risk of being trafficked. The primary sponsors are Senator Brown (D-OH) and Representative Beatty (D-OH).
- Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Survivors Act of 2021 (R.2542/S.1122), which amends the Fair Housing Act to prohibit eviction and other forms of housing discrimination based on an individual’s status as a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. The primary sponsors are Representative Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Senator Shaheen (D-NH).
- Human Trafficking Survivor Tax Relief Act of 2021 (895/H.R. 6389), which requires the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to coordinate and consult with stakeholders to study the availability and accessibility of housing and services for survivors of trafficking and persons at risk of being trafficked. The primary sponsors are Senator Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Schneider (D-IL).
- The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act (2136), which establishes grants to train students, teachers, and school and youth development personnel on how to better understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to human trafficking and the exploitation of children and youth. The primary sponsors are Senator Murkowski (R-AK) and Representative Buchanan (R-FL).
To combat trafficking in persons in the year ahead, join Shared Hope International in encouraging Congress to take action on this legislation. We also look forward to Congress introducing new legislation to further address the needs of child sex trafficking victims, including legislation to provide survivors with access to vacatur and affirmative defenses for federal convictions that occurred as a direct result their victimization.
To learn more about federal legislation that addresses the needs of sex trafficking victims and to take action in support of this critical issue, please visit Shared Hope’s Federal Advocacy Action Center.