The numbers are staggering. The Justice Department estimates that each year at least 200,000 children are trafficked for sex in the U.S., and it is said to generate upward of $32 billion a year. Across the country, teens are being picked up on prostitution charges. It’s a stunning contradiction in the law: Girls who are too young to legally consent to sex are being prosecuted for selling it.
Amy Farrell is an expert who studies sex trafficking laws. She tells NPR’s Arun Rath some states are trying to fix the problem through what are called safe harbor laws. The basic premise of these laws is to give law enforcement and prosecutors a way to divert children who have been prostituted from a juvenile delinquent proceeding and instead put them into what’s called a “child in need” proceeding.
In some states without safe harbor laws, there are efforts to set up special courts specifically to deal with these cases. “This has basically been a whole series of individual judges seeing these cases coming through their courts and becoming passionate and involved in the issue and being willing to work with prosecutors, the defense bar and service providers to establish these problem-solving courts,” Farrell says.
Nationwide, pimps are prosecuted far less often than the children they exploit. The men who buy sex from minors are very rarely prosecuted. Farrell says states are beginning to change the law, stiffening the penalties for purchasing sex from a child. “The bigger problem isn’t so much changing the laws — we’re starting to do that — the real challenge will be convincing law enforcement and the judiciary to hold people who purchase sex from trafficked persons accountable,” she says. “I think prosecutors are reluctant to pursue prosecution against johns because it’s not been politically expedient to do so in many communities.”
Learn more at the NPR article: Courts Take A Kinder Look At Victims Of Child Sex Trafficking.