|Photo Courtesy of Fair Girls|
People often place homelessness and sex trafficking into two different buckets of vulnerability. In reality, these issues are often one in the same, as homeless children are sexually exploited at an alarmingly high rate. When they do not have a safe place to sleep or trusting adults to turn to, young people are forced to find a way to survive. Many times, the only currency they have to offer are their own bodies. Sometimes adults force or coerce a young person into the sex trade – sometimes their situations do – either way, this form of sexual exploitation is mentally and physically damaging to a minor’s well-being. To add insult to injury, in DC, these minors are arrested and prosecuted for engaging in unlawful sexual behavior; going from one system of control established by a pimp, to another system of control brought on by a police officer.
On November 18, DC Council will vote on a bill to change this practice. The 'Safe Harbor' bill will ensure minors get care, not punishment, when trying to survive on the streets. Below is an excerpt from our one-pager with a FAQs section that addresses common misperceptions about minors and the sex trade.
It is fitting that this bill is being voted on during Youth Homelessness Awareness Month. It is time we stop arresting and prosecuting vulnerable children who need basic necessitates: food, shelter, and a caring adult.
College Student, Survivor Advocate at FAIR Girls DC
- Anita Alvarez
State’s Attorney, Cook County, IL
- Retired Officer Dan Goldsmith, California State Investigator
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: What is child sex trafficking and survival sex?
A: The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines a sex trafficking victim as any child under 18 who is engaging in commercial sex acts. Survival sex occurs when a child engages in sexual acts in exchange for food, shelter, or other basic needs, whether or not they have a pimp. Under the TVPA, minors engaging in survival sex should be treated as trafficking victims.
Q: Isn’t arrest & prosecution a good way for victims to get services?
A: No, instead victims need to be able to voluntarily access services through police referrals — police training on how to do this is included in the bill. A jail cell or a courtroom are not the most effective ways to present services to victims of child sex trafficking. Victims need to have the time and space to commit to accepting services in order for the services to be effective. As Andrea Powell, Executive Director of Fair Girls says, “we’ve never had any victim tell us no to services … if they are asked correctly.”
Q: But don’t we need to arrest these kids and threaten them with prosecution so they give information about their pimps?
A: No, arresting victims of child sex trafficking will only lead them to distrust, be hostile toward, and withhold information from authorities. When a victim has the opportunity to voluntarily choose services, the young person is more cooperative in a police investigation.
DOWNLOAD THE "SAFE HARBOR" ONE-PAGER
|Photo Courtesy of Fair Girls|
Before the vote on Tuesday, November 19th 2014, reach out to DC Councilmembers through their social media channels. View sample tweets and councilmember twitter handles for guidance as we work together to pass this significant and groundbreaking legislation to protect victims of child sex trafficking.