State Laws Fail to Protect Children from Sex Trafficking

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Most states aren’t doing enough to curb child sex trafficking according to a new report by the advocacy group Shared Hope International. The study, prepared in partnership with the American Center for Law and Justice, graded all 50 states on the strength of their sex trafficking laws. States that protected minors and prosecuted traffickers received the highest grades. But more than half of states received grades of D or F.

Leading the states with grades of B were Texas, Missouri, Illinois and Washington. All received high marks for criminal provisions addressing demand and protective provisions for child victims.

Georgia ranked near the top as one of only six states receiving a C because of its comprehensive human trafficking law and laws combating commercial exploitation of children. But the state lost points because convicted traffickers are not required to register as sex offenders.

The report identifies four policy areas that must be addressed in order to combat the sex trafficking of minors: eliminating demand, prosecuting traffickers, identifying victims and providing protection, access to services and shelter for victims.

“Broken systems of criminal justice and child welfare responses to victims must also be fixed,” the report says, “to ensure that commercially sexually exploited children are treated as victims and provided with remedies through the law to recapture their lives and their futures.”

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Linda Smith of Washington founded Shared Hope International after leaving Congress.

"I was absolutely shocked,” she told NPR.  “When we started sending people into states [posing] as sex tourists, and they would go in, and they would come into the city maybe from another country, maybe from another state, and they could buy kids so easily.”

The report, Smith told NPR, was designed to help states draft model laws to fight sex trafficking.

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