Connecticut Aims at Child Sex Trafficking

Connecticut’s child-protection agency has fielded nearly 200 calls on the sex trafficking of minors since 2008, and police, prosecutors, and social workers are now working on a more unified response to an increasingly insidious practice.

The prevailing perceptions of sex trafficking might be that it has to look like the Southeast Asian sex trade, or that it necessarily entails smuggling humans across state or national boundaries. But those are misconceptions, says Elizabeth Duryea of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). There’s a shadow world in Connecticut where dozens of juvenile runaway girls have been ensnared by pimps bearing seductive gifts and filling a parental void. Compounding the problem is that the young people, at least at first, often don’t consider themselves victims. By the time they do, they have long become the property of the traffickers.
“Domestic minor sex trafficking is a subset of human trafficking,” said Duryea, a top official in DCF Commissioner Joette Katz’s office. “We want to raise public awareness of the problem right here in Connecticut and get underneath some of the misconceptions.” The mantra in the fight against domestic terrorism – “if you see something, say something” – applies to the sex trafficking of children.A hotel clerk or an emergency room nurse are just as likely to encounter evidence of the trafficking of minors in the sex trade as police officers or social workers, said Duryea.

The scope of the problem is probably wider than the reports that DCF receives through its hotline. “I believe this type of activity occurs far more than we realize,” said Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane. “This is basically sexual assault of minors, but the victims are not inclined to report it or seek the help of police. We need to think about ways that law enforcement can be a more significant part of the solution – but it is still just one component of the response.”

State laws enacted since 2012 have targeted traffickers who exploit adolescents who are too young to legally consent to sex. It is now a felony to purchase any type of advertising for a “commercial sex act” involving a person under 18. Patronizing a prostitute under 18, formerly a misdemeanor offense, is now a felony carrying a prison term of up to 10 years. Also, the state can now move to seize money and property of anyone convicted of third-degree promoting prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation of a minor.

Learn more at Josh Kovner’s Hartford Courant article: State Takes Aim At Sex Trafficking Of Minors.

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