Klobuchar-authored provision to help ensure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but are instead treated as victims, was included as part of broad anti-sex trafficking legislation
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today announced that major bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Klobuchar has been signed into law by the president. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act will help law enforcement further crack down on human traffickers, while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims. A provision Klobuchar authored to help ensure that minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but are instead treated as victims, was also included as part of the legislation. The provision was modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” law and introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN). A recent report released by the Polaris Project, an anti-sex trafficking group, found that a majority of states lack safe harbor laws to protect victims.
“Today marks a major milestone in our effort to crack down on sex trafficking and deliver crucial support to victims of these horrific crimes,” Klobuchar said. “By encouraging other states to adopt Minnesota’s Safe Harbor model, this new law will give prosecutors additional tools to go after sex traffickers and help make sure that victims of sex trafficking are supported, not thrown behind bars. On average, girls first become victims of sex trafficking at 13 years old. This bill will help ensure that more of our young girls are able to go to school, play with their friends, and make plans for their future—rather than being sold for sex.”
Klobuchar spoke on the Senate floor prior to Senate passage of the legislation. Video of Klobuchar’s remarks is available here.
Klobuchar is a national leader in the fight to combat sex trafficking. Her bipartisan legislation modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” law gives incentives for 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. The legislation 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, and United Methodist Women.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would help law enforcement further crack down on human traffickers in communities across the country while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims. In addition to law enforcement provisions, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act helps victims rebuild their lives by using fines and penalties against perpetrators to improve the availability of victim services. The legislation included two funding streams: the first flows from fines collected on sex traffickers and would be used for survivor services including shelter and enforcement, but not health care, while the second would come from existing federal funds allocated for health care.
Below is a summary of the “Safe Harbor” bill, which was included in the final legislation:
- 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 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 them 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.