Senators reintroduce their bipartisan legislation that would give prosecutors the tools they need to combat domestic minor sex trafficking and help give victims the support they need
Bill is modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” law that helps make sure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants but are instead treated as victims
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) today renewed their push to crack down on sex trafficking across the country. The senators today reintroduced their bipartisan legislation that would give prosecutors the tools they need to combat domestic minor sex trafficking and help give victims the support they need. The bill – the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking (SETT) Act – is modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” law that helps make sure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants but are instead treated as victims.
“Sex trafficking isn’t just happening half a world away, it’s happening here right in our own backyards,” Klobuchar said. “In Minnesota, we’ve already recognized that kids sold for sex need to be supported, not locked up in jail. This bipartisan bill will help expand our Safe Harbor model to states all across the country and ensure that victims receive the support they need, and I will continue to work to get this done.”
"Victims of trafficking deserve restoration and I will continue to do everything within my power to help them while at the same time aid law enforcement in cracking down on this heinous crime," Sen. Cornyn said.
“Part of what makes sex trafficking so insidious is that it holds its victims in plain sight, painting them as willful criminals. Unfortunately these terrible crimes are growing in North Dakota – right in our own communities,” said Heitkamp. “Not long ago, human trafficking was barely talked about in North Dakota, but over the past year and a half, we have worked to raise awareness about it, and now many in the state are stepping up to stop these crimes. It’s up to Congress to pass legislation to stand up for victims, and I’m hopeful we can pass our strong, bipartisan bill to accomplish those goals because stopping human trafficking is an issue everyone should support. I’ve met the victims and I know the survivors – and I’ll keep fighting to raise up their voices to get them heard – and to get them the support they need in North Dakota and across the nation.”
"Every year more 16,000 women and girls are trafficked in the Chicagoland area and often face prosecution and jail time for actions that they have been forced into by dangerous gangs and pimps," said Senator Kirk. "This bipartisan bill protects victims of trafficking by providing job training and the resources necessary to support those who have been victimized and are looking to start a better life."
The bill is supported by the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Fraternal Order of Police, Shared Hope International, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, United Methodist Women. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dan Coats (R-IN), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), John McCain (R-AZ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Mark Warner (D-VA) cosponsored the bill.
Below is a summary of the Senators’ legislation.
The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (SETT):
· Includes a provision modeled after Minnesota’s “safe harbor” laws. The provision encourages all states to have a safe harbor provision to help ensure minors who are sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but are instead treated as victims. When a state passes a safe harbor law, it means that kids sold for sex should be steered towards child protection services, rather than being arrested, charged, or convicted under a state’s criminal laws. This bill will give states incentives through existing federal grant programs to pass safe harbor laws.
· Creates a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking. The National Strategy will help coordinate efforts to investigate and prevent human trafficking between federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. This will help set clear goals and focus resources to help combat human trafficking. The bill will also encourage better data sharing between different law enforcement agencies.
· Allows victims of sex trafficking to participate in the Job Corps program to help them get back on their feet. This bill makes clear that victims of sex trafficking should be eligible for current job training and skills building programs to help empower sex trafficking victims so that they have the tools they need to find a way out of the cycle.
· Helps victims pursue financial restitution. The bill will encourage better tracking of financial restitution orders so that victims can actually collect on the restitution they are due.
· Strengthens the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Right now, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline helps connect victims with services they need and passes on crime tips to law enforcement. This bill would make sure that the hotline is backed by the force of law. Although the Hotline operates with some federal authorization, this bill puts the National Human Trafficking Hotline on par with other national hotlines designed to serve victims.