RESPONDING TO SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIM-OFFENDER INTERSECTIONALITY: A Guide for Criminal Justice Stakeholders
This field guidance is a joint report by Shared Hope International and the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation at Villanova Law, and was informed by Shared Hope’s JuST Response Council. It follows three years of collaborative research on sex trafficking victim-offender intersectionality—the phenomenon of sex trafficking survivors who are alleged to have engaged in sex trafficking conduct.
The field guidance provides tools for criminal justice stakeholders that assist in identifying the intersection of trafficking victimization and offending conduct, as well as guidance on responding to these cases in a trauma-responsive and trafficking-informed manner. By examining victim-offender intersectionality through a trafficking-informed lens, this field guidance seeks to identify strategies for moving toward more just and fair responses to sex trafficking victim-offenders at all stages of the criminal justice process.
While “safe harbor” is a term often used to describe statutes establishing a non-punitive response for juvenile sex trafficking victims, this represents only one component of a comprehensive state response—avoidance of a criminal justice outcome.
Since the term “safe harbor” derives from the idea of carving out an exemption for minors under the prostitution law, this can imply that minors have agency in deciding to engage in their commercial sexual exploitation and does not emphasize the critical role of access to services.
Due to the important role of language in accomplishing the fundamental paradigm shift from viewing victims as criminals to viewing victims as victims, both statutorily and in practice, we refer to the statutes that direct juvenile victims away from delinquency and into services as protective response laws.
A person who has been victimized/survived victimization. This report uses victim and survivor interchangeably to provide consistency with statutory language and cross-agency terminology. We recognize that individuals who have experienced trafficking are survivors at all stages of their abuse and recover and are not defined by their victimization.
Refers to a person who has not reached the age of 18. Juvenile should not be a bad word. The issue of juvenile sex trafficking is not a new phenomenon, but the way it is perceived has been changing rapidly due to the advocacy of leaders and advocates across the country. We have a chance to reform systems broadly because of this shift in perception. With this goal in mind, we also have the opportunity to shift public perception of the word “juvenile” as something negative to what it actually means—a young person whom we as a society have a responsibility to care for and about.*
* The Council recognizes that victimization and service needs extend beyond minors and young adults, however, for the target audience of current resources along with expertise represented the subject remains limited to this age group.