New legislation aimed at keeping American minors out of the clutches of sex traffickers was introduced this week by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) and Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking.
"We are stepping up the fight against this modern day slavery and the abuse of children within the United States," said Smith, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and author of three anti-human trafficking laws. "Human trafficking is a worldwide problem and the United States is no exception. Traffickers claim new victims in our country every day, destroying childhoods and damaging lives.
"Our new legislation builds on current services available for trafficking victims but specifically targets assistance to US child trafficking victims--many of whom are runaways and have been forcibly addicted to drugs by traffickers. By creating a grant program and mandating that at least half the funds go to shelters and other services for minor victims of sex trafficking, we are putting traffickers on notice that we will not only fight to protect our kids but we are working equally hard to rescue children already victimized. Traffickers prowl our streets looking for adolescents and teens who have lost their way. Through the assistance for specialized shelters and services in this bill, communities in the U.S. will be better able to offer more teenage victims a place to be safe and heal, rather than return to the streets only to be re-trafficked," Smith said.
Maloney highlighted the need to assist victims.
"Too many think that sex trafficking is only a problem in foreign countries. But here in the U.S., an estimated 100,000 underage girls-- most of them American citizens-- are exploited through commercial sex each year," Rep. Maloney said. "Yet, nationwide there are only 50 beds to address the needs of those 100,000 victims. This is simply unacceptable. We have a moral obligation to help; these are America's daughters, granddaughters, sisters, and nieces."
Today's bill, the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010, H.R. 5575, is a legislative response to the 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, America's Prostituted Children, conducted by Shared Hope International through a Department of Justice Grant. The report details domestic child sex trafficking, specifically commercial sexual exploitation of American children within U.S. borders. Experts estimate that at least 100,000 American minors are victimized in America each year. The average age of initial exploitation is between 12-13, with some victims even younger.
H.R. 5575 would provide $45,000,000 for shelter and specialized care for victims, assist law enforcement and prosecutors to identify and rescue victims and put pimps in prison, promote deterrence and prevention programs aimed at potential buyers, and require timely and accurate reporting of missing children.
Grants may be awarded by the U.S. Attorney General's Office, in conjunction with the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for efforts to address child sex trafficking that provide: shelter to minor victims of trafficking, including temporary or long-term placement as appropriate; 24-hour emergency social services; clothing and other daily necessities needed to keep such victims from returning to living on the street; case management and legal services; mental health counseling; specialized training for law enforcement personnel and social service providers; funding salaries for law enforcement officers, state and local prosecutors, including assisting in paying trial expenses for prosecution of offenders; investigation expenses for cases, including wire taps and consultants with expertise in sex trafficking of minors; travel, and; outreach and education programs to provide information about deterrence and prevention of sex trafficking of minors.
In 2000, Smith authored the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA: PL 106-386), the first federal law specifically enacted to prevent victimization, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking. Smith's TVPA created real penalties for traffickers and authorized extensive protections for victims of trafficking, authorizing grants to shelters and rehabilitation programs in the United States primarily for foreign victims. Smith's two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increased resources primarily for crime prevention, prosecution and expanded treatment assistance for victims--however, domestic minors have yet to receive specialized care services. The law requires the U.S. State Department to issue annual trafficking reports on countries around the world. The newest report was issued June 14. Click here to view 2010 report.
Smith noted the significant impact U.S. anti-human trafficking legislation has had in locking up traffickers as well as prompting other countries to pass their own laws to combat trafficking and help the victims within their own borders.
Shared Hope's 2009 report represented more than four years of research in America and showed a dangerous lack of attention to and solutions for the problem of domestic minor sex trafficking in U.S. cities. The report assessed four components of domestic minor sex trafficking: identifying the victims; prosecuting the traffickers; combating demand; and providing protection, access to services and shelter for the victims--mostly teenage girls.