Sexually Exploited Girls in New York Find Safe Harbor

NEW YORK –There are advantages and difficulties, including legal barriers, to converting prostitution charges into an opportunity to provide services to girls on the street. That was the conclusion of a panel of experts assembled at the 74th annual conference of the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recently. “There is a conflict in our law,” suggested Judge Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, administrative judge of the city’s family courts, “How can we criminally prosecute kids for prostitution when the law says that they can’t legally consent to having sex?” she asked. “Every child arrested is a sexually exploited child.”

The Safe Harbor bill enacted in April 2010 creates a rebuttable presumption that a minor arrested for prostitution in New York is a “trafficked” person, allowing a diversion from delinquency court to a children’s services program. But Judge Richardson-Mendelson pointed out the difficulties associated with the Safe Harbor Bill.