Profile on Sex Trafficking Victims and Obtaining Self-Sufficiency

Imagine a young girl who has run away from an abusive home and meets a man who promises to take care of her. He gives her food, shelter, and love. As this relationship develops, this man alters his role from caretaker and lover to pimp and controller. Suddenly, this young girl is transformed into a sexual object, a commercial item to be sold. The security the pimp provided earlier is now a debt to be paid off.

All too often, a pimp identifies a child in desperation and exploits her vulnerabilities. The young girl described above is a clear victim of the crime of sex trafficking, as she was induced to engage in prostitution to satisfy her pimp. However, according to several state laws, she was also a criminal, guilty of exchanging sex for money.

Estimates suggest that between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk of being induced into the commercial sex industry every year, and many of these children are prosecuted for, and convicted of, prostitution offenses. As a result, children who are victims of sex trafficking face cyclic vulnerabilities throughout their life. The criminal justice system is incapable of addressing the needs of sexually exploited and sex trafficked children if it inherently treats them as delinquent criminals.

Safe Harbor to Protect Sex Trafficked Children

Law enforcement often arrests both adults and children involved in the commercial sex industry, places them in lock-up, and initiates criminal prosecutions, thereby re-victimizing human trafficking victims. The good news is that this dynamic is starting to change. In more and more states, law enforcement is identifying these children as victims of a crime and giving them the opportunity to receive direct services.

This shift is occurring in states that have passed Safe harbor legislation, which recognizes that minors arrested for prostitution are actually victims of human trafficking that deserve services and support. Safe harbor laws shift the paradigm away from the criminal justice system and toward a child welfare response.

Vacating Convictions for Sex Trafficking Victims

However, the traditional treatment of prostitution as a nuisance and, by extension, of children in the commercial sex industry as delinquents has resulted in numerous prosecutions and convictions against human trafficking victims for engaging in prostitution offenses. These convictions can have unintended and devastating consequences in the future. For example, an adult or a juvenile with prior convictions is at risk of higher rates of unemployment because many employers refuse to hire convicted offenders. Beyond a simple criminal record, prostitution convictions carry a specific kind of stigmatization and invoke a sense shame against the children who were prosecuted for this crime.

Sex trafficking survivors, especially adult survivors who did not benefit from safe harbor laws, need additional protection. Vacating convictions legislation is a critical safeguard for survivors who have left their trafficking situations, but still have a criminal record. Such legislation permits victims of sex trafficking to ask a judge to clear his or her conviction for prostitution offenses because he or she was a victim of human trafficking at the time of the offense.

These provisions give survivors of sex trafficking the opportunity to clear their records and to obtain employment. Consequently, children who were induced to engage in prostitution no longer have that stigma attached to their names. They are free to pursue any career path and employment opportunities without the specter of a prostitution conviction hanging in the shadows.

Ultimately, a young, sexually exploited girl should not suffer further re-victimization after having been subjected to a heinous form of human trafficking. Safe harbor laws and vacating conviction legislation are crucial tools to helping survivors of human trafficking recover from their trauma and rebuild their lives.

8 comments to Profile on Sex Trafficking Victims and Obtaining Self-Sufficiency

  • Being as Hawaii is a state that allows vacating of such records, why not try getting it worked into the public conscience by being aired on Hawaii 5-0!

  • We are very interested in helping. Please tell us what we can do ?

    • Catherine Amalfi

      Please first and foremost pray, when a trafficker gets a hold of a girl they don’t want to let go! THEY rob you of your possesions, degrade you and destroy any creditability you have. THEY need to control you under all circumstances, I am a survivor of a group of people named ALBANESE AND FIORILLO who are now trafficking there children. ITS horrible, they even tried to get a friend named AL to sell his car! THATS WHAT THESE evil animals due, they munipulate ministers, public officials, municipalities anything they can to control! Any good judge or detective or a person with half a brain would figure it out!

  • Paige

    I would love to know how i could help change this in az seeing is how az iant one of the states that vacates it.possibly start a petition to change this in my state by helpin to raise awareness? But id also need more info direct specifics not just what ive learned on the internet.anything that could be helpful id be willing to try

  • Dylan Blatman

    how can I support this movement? How can my community help? I live in Orlando, Florida. Also while I am up here talk with you guys. Can I become your guys intern this summer?

  • Jessica Dickinson Goodman, Online Outreach Specialist

    Hi Paige,

    We have a petition right here which might help: Thank you!


  • Tim Quilter

    I honestly believe that developing a DNA data base from Johns, and Pimps would be a good idea, and would help in future prosecutions, but we must go futher to protect the most vunerable in our society – Let me explain. I really believe in the Liberalization of the Death Penalty that would cover the very serious crimes that torture our society. What ever happened to Three Strikes, and you are out? Why not have THREE STRIKES, AND YOU ARE DEAD! I see nothing wrong with the Death Penalty. There are huge gangs that deal, and profit greatly from 21st Century Slavery. Why can we not take these perps, and pimps – as well as johns, and put them to death? There is nothing morally wrong with protecting society by liberalizating the death penalty. I do agree that the consumers must be punished equally with the traffickers, and pimps. In fact – any part of this dispicable trade should be dealt with in the most servere manner possible. The only thing that should spare the life of the pimp, trafficker, or the consumer – is that their lives will be spared with a life time in prison with no possibility of parol – if they can give information, and especially evidence of the activities of their organization that will lead to future as well further arrest.

    I do not blame Capitalism for this disgusting trade, but the willfull acts of evil, and total lack of any morals – along with the total disregard to human life. In the past 50 years, or less – there has been over one million murders, and ten million forceable rapes. Why does our society tollerate this horrible behavior. The complicated legal procedures just make the problem worse, and enriches the lawyers who knowingly allow these criminals to be protected. These Sophist professionals are just as evil as the criminals that they represent. If these lawyers would get the same punishment for knowing their clients criminal activities – then less criminals will be represented, and would have to stand alone in front of the bar of justice.

    I could go on, and on, but you all pretty much know what I mean. Responsibility must always be borne on the decision maker,
    and parents must be accountable to support the children that they have procreated. Yet we have a major child support crises
    here in America that make the children even more vulerable to the slave trade. When is our society going to wake up?