Thursday, July 03, 2014

Services - Not Prosecutions - For Victims of Child Sex Trafficking

Last year, the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates published a blog by Jamila Larson, the Executive Director of the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project: “MISSING: The Will to Find & Protect Our Exploited Youth”. A young girl who Jamila had worked with in the past, Shawna, had been missing for months. While searching for Shawna with the girl’s family, Jamila found many holes in the safety net meant to keep vulnerable, unstably-housed children safe. In the end, social workers found Shawna across the country, being pimped out for commercial sex. Shawna was only 14 years old. Read the full story.

    Right now, DC’s current policy and procedures toward child sex trafficking victims only worsens the exploitation of young people. As policy stands:

    • A minor, like Shawna, who cannot even consent to sex due to her age, can be arrested and charged for being pimped out or engaging in survival sex. 
    • When a young person in the child welfare system (CFSA) or the juvenile justice system (DYRS) is trafficked for commercial sex across the country, that child is considered to be “absconding” or a “placement violation.” The young person is not considered “missing.” 
    • Service providers who work most closely with at-risk minors may not file a missing persons report, even if they know a minor is missing and has possibly been trafficked. 

    On July 10th the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety is holding a public hearing on the “Sex Trafficking of Minors Prevention Amendment Act,” a bill which aims to overhaul these policies.

    Overall, the bill focuses on common sense approaches to minors who are sexually exploited for commercial gain. By following a rights-based framework that values service provisions over arrests and detention, the bill aligns DC law with federal law and works to identify minors who are being trafficked or are at-risk of being trafficked.

    There are still relatively minor provisions within the bill that DCAYA recommends changing, but overall it is an excellent bill.   You can find the full outline of the “Sex Trafficking of Minors Prevention Amendment Act” here.

    The advocates, policy organizations, direct service providers, law firms, and government agencies behind the “Sex Trafficking of Minors Prevention Act,” realize that DC needs to immediately improve how victims of child sex trafficking are treated. On July 10th Shawna’s cry for help will finally be listened to.

    If you would like to testify at the hearing with DCAYA and supporters please contact Katie Dunn at

    DCAYA brought together many local and national organizations specialized in addressing cases of child sex trafficking to craft the legislation including: Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, Fair Girls, Sasha Bruce, HIPS, and Courtney’s House, Polaris Project, Rights 4 Girls, the Renewal Forum, Amara Legal Center, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Center, and members of the Human Trafficking Taskforce of the DMV. The bill was written and vetted by the offices of Councilmembers McDuffie, Grosso, Wells, and Cheh-- and tweaked through feedback from the Metropolitan Police Department, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, the Child and Family Services Agency and the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety and Justice.

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