Target: United States Attorney General Eric Holder
Goal: Introduce nationwide safe harbor laws for victims of sexual trafficking
Sexual trafficking and exploitation of children and underage teens is an appalling and wide-spread reality in the United States and other countries. Yet only twelve states so far have safe harbor laws that protect underage victims from prosecution for a crime they cannot ostensibly commit, as they are under the age of consent. In other states, however, victims are faced with prosecution for selling sex, and often the legal system targets the exploited instead of traffickers. Demand a nationwide safe harbor law for the victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.
It is estimated by the Justice Department that hundreds of thousands of children are trafficked for sex in the United States alone, and the numbers may very well be higher. These teens are picked up on prostitution charges in a complete contradiction of the law; they are being punished for a crime they cannot legally consent to.
Safe harbor laws are meant to protect the victims of sex trafficking and exploitation, and focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment. Teenagers and children in states without safe harbor laws, however, are taken from sexual trafficking situations and may be subjected to punishment, or treated as criminals. Others may have to testify against their exploiters, even after the trauma they have faced.
These punitive measurements treat victims of sexual slavery as criminals and further entrap them in the sex trade; there is nowhere to go and no legal recourse in states without safe harbor laws. Their choice is to remain a sex slave or depend upon a justice system that fails to provide adequate protective measures and may even punish these young men and women, or release them back into the very same situation that led to sexual slavery.
A nationwide safe harbor law would provide an escape for victims of sexual slavery, and would aid hundreds of thousands on the road to rehabilitation. Moreover, establishing a safe harbor law is the first step toward protecting victims of sexual slavery. Underage teenagers and children should not be treated as criminals for having been trapped in sexual slavery. It is wrong-headed and unjust to prosecute victims of sexual slavery for a crime they cannot legally consent to. Jail time and punitive measures not only severely impede a chance to escape sexual trafficking situations, but also dissuade teenagers from seeking legal aid. The current system traps underage sex workers in unlawful, exploitative, and abusive situations. We must demand a change to this system, and protect these teenagers and children.
Dear Attorney General Eric Holder,
Hundreds of thousands of children and teenagers enter the illegal sex trade every year in the United States, either through coercion, manipulation, force, or all three. Many of them come from underprivileged backgrounds, and are faced with little to no opportunity to escape.
So far, only twelve states have enacted safe harbor laws that would protect victims of the sex trade from prosecution for a crime they cannot legally consent to. In other states, victims are treated as criminals, faced with a justice system that focuses on punishment and may release them straight back into situations that led to sexual slavery and vulnerability in the first place.
Therefore, I ask that a nationwide safe harbor law be enacted. These underage victims cannot legally consent to selling sex, but they are prosecuted and treated as criminals for prostitution instead of receiving help that would allow them to escape the sex trade. A safe harbor law would enable thousands of victims to leave the sex trade without fear of legal reprisal, a desperately needed step to end sexual slavery and trafficking.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Thomas Wanhoff via Flicker