Thursday, October 30, 2014

In Our Backyard: State Governments Respond to Sex Trafficking of Children

On 19 September 2014 I attended the symposium “In Our Backyard: State Governments Respond to Sex Trafficking of Children” at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. Although “human trafficking” or “sex trafficking” has long prospered and was popularized by the Martin Scorsese film “Taxi Driver” it has not been until recent years that is has been gaining significant law enforcement and legislative attention. Indiana’s statutory law on human trafficking is found at IC 35-42-3.5 which became effective on 2006 and was amended in 2013. Human sex trafficking is defined as:
A person knowingly or intentionally recruiting, harboring, or transporting a child less than eighteen (18) years of age with the intent of engaging the child in prostitution or sexual deviant conduct commits promotion of human trafficking of a minor.
A person who is at least eighteen (18) years of age who knowingly or intentionally sells or transfers custody of a child less than eighteen (18) years of age for the purpose of prostitution or participating in sexual deviant conduct commits sexual trafficking of a minor.
A person who knowingly or intentionally pays, offers to pay, or agrees to pay money or other property to another person for an individual who the person knows has been forced into prostitution commits human trafficking.

My purpose in bringing the issue of child sex trafficking to your attention today is in an effort to prevent victimization and provide some basis for how the risk to children is established. Similarly I have previously written about “Most Parents Encourage Sexual Abuse of Their Children.” Like inducing sexual molestation of children, the pathway for children to enter the human sex trafficking network has often been paved by the parents as this symposium revealed.

First, some background about the symposium and its participants. The symposium featured:
~ Bridgette Carr, Clinical Professor of Law from the University of Michigan Law School. Professor Carr directs the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan and is the co-author of the first case book addressing the law and policy of human trafficking (LexisNexis 2014). Professor Carr shared her experiences as a lawyer, as one who has testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and as a teacher in this complex area of law and policy.
~ Holly Austin Smith, Human Trafficking Survivor and Author of Walking Prey: How America's Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery . Ms. Smith shared her perspectives, experiences, and told participants about her role in changing state laws influencing the protection of our youth and the prosecution of the criminals who benefit from the sex trafficking industry.
~ Carlos Gonzalez, 2014 Program on Law and State Government Fellow. Mr. Gonzalez presented his scholarship regarding how state governments and local law enforcement units collaborate to identify minor victims of sex trafficking and aggressively prosecute sex traffickers and purchasers.
~ Chelsea Shelburne, 2014 Program on Law and State Government Fellow. Ms. Shelburne presented her scholarship regarding how state juvenile justice systems could be better tools for preventing sex trafficking of children and prosecuting the adults who support the sex trafficking industry.

A panel of prosecutors and law enforcement officers addressed intergovernmental collaboration on the criminal prosecutions of sex trafficking and related crimes. This panel was comprised of;
~ Casey Bates, Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit (H.E.A.T.), Deputy District Attorney, Alameda County, California
~ Howard Marcus, U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Section Chief of National Security/Child Exploitation
~ Lieutenant Charles “Chuck” Cohen, Indiana State Police Commander, Special Investigations and Criminal Intelligence;

A panel of experts explored different state approaches and policies to address justice and recovery for victims of child sex trafficking. This panel was comprised of;
~ Lisa S. Elwood, University of Indianapolis, Director of Clinical Training and Assistant Professor, School of Psychological Sciences
~ Christine Raino, Shared Hope International, Policy Counsel
~ Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, Office of the Indiana Attorney General, Director and Chief Counsel of Consumer Protection, Co-chair Designee, Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force
The symposium panelists discussed the matter of attacking human sex trafficking through supply of victims, supply of traffickers, and demand of users.

Demand is established primarily directly through prostitution where users exchange money for particular sexual encounters. Females are nearly universally represented by a trafficker while males nearly always act as independent contractors. Thus, trafficking laws rarely apply to male victims. A second component of demand is pornography. Often times the supply of children [and those who have subsequently become adults] provided to the porn industry have been groomed by traffickers.

Traffickers are finding the human sex trafficking industry to be very profitable. Traffickers may be what is typically portrayed in the popular media as the urban pimp. More often though now traffickers are organized street gangs who may concurrently be in or were formerly in the illicit drug business. The list of traffickers also includes the highly organized traffickers that operate through bricks and mortar offices with a high internet utilization. This final category of traffickers has a high proportion of female proprietors to males many of whom were previously trafficked for sexual services.

The supply of victims is what most concerns me as an advocate for children and advisor on matters related to child custody. Victims are diverse among age and socio-economic backgrounds although they are predominantly from racial minority and financially insecure groups. The correlation between poverty and trafficking has been corroborated by qualitative reports from law enforcement, social service providers, and others working in the anti-trafficking movements. [fn1] Most victims arrive to traffickers through coercion or deceit rather than abductions. Male traffickers will groom an adolescent female through special attention, adornment, and presentation of gifts and privilege that other girls do not receive. Upon being well established into the sexual servitude lifestyle she is replaced by the next recruit. Female traffickers entice young females into the lifestyle through promises of friendship and safety from the dangers of the street. The ploy of gifts and extravagance are also employed until the child is well established in the lifestyle.

What many of us on the front lines of family discord and child endangerment have intuitively known for years is now being confirmed through scientifically based analysis. That is, neglect of children -- emotional and physical -- is more harmful to children than abuse. Panelist from different disciplines uniformly presented that the role of parents was a significant contributor to the likelihood that a child would be recruited into a child sex trafficking network. Parents who divorce or do not reside together, are not attentive to and aware of a child’s friends and associates, do not show adequate affection, or do not set appropriate boundaries for their children are primarily responsible for children entering the sex industry.

The themes of trauma, abandonment, and disruption, begun in childhood, are central to the narratives of adolescent girls trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. Girls describe having had a profound sense of being alone without resources: “They [the women and girls] described their isolation, lack of connectedness, and feelings of separation as the single most important factor in making them vulnerable to prostitution to begin with…” [fn2]

An interesting take away from the symposium related to child molestation and prostitution came from the law enforcement side. From there it was revealed that perpetrators of child molestation can avoid lengthy prison terms tied to child molestation by leaving money with the child after the offense. In those cases police/prosecutors have at times only sought enforcement of the prostitution statute. They have also pursued the child victim as an offender -- prostitute -- rather than a victim of sexual abuse However, under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act [], these individuals previously identified as criminals should be identified and treated as trafficking victims. Ideally, every law enforcement officer would have the proper training and tools (e.g., common screening questions and protocols) to be able to correctly apply the trafficking law, make the proper distinctions, and refer trafficking victims for health and human services.

[1] Clawson, H. J., & Dutch, N. (2008). Addressing the needs of victims of human trafficking: Challenges, barriers, and promising practices. Fairfax, VA: ICF International.
[2] Rabinovitch, J. (2003). PEERS: The Prostitutes’ Empowerment, Education, and Resource Society. In M. Farley (Ed.), Prostitution, trafficking, and traumatic stress (pp. 239-253). New York: Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press.

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