The Common Good

Tell Congress: We Support More Resources for Sex Trafficking Survivors

On Wednesday, November 17, the National Coalition to End Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is sponsoring a National Day of Action to support H.R. 5575, the "Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010." This bi-partisan bill would help fund restorative services for sex trafficking survivors and increase resources for efforts to combat trafficking.

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Between 100,000 and 300,000 children are exploited in the prostitution, pornography, and adult entertainment industries in the United States each year, according to experts who study the issue. Around the country, activists and communities of faith are taking bold steps to respond. (I profile some of this work in the August 2010 Sojourners article "Selling Our Children.") But there aren't nearly enough specialized services to support survivors. As a result, these young people are often arrested as juvenile delinquents or charged as adult prostitutes.

H.R. 5575 would provide up to six grants of $2 to $2.5 million to help fund state and local initiatives that provide shelter, daily necessities, and specialized counseling to support young sex trafficking survivors. It would strengthen law enforcement efforts to identify, arrest, and prosecute pimps, and fund deterrence and prevention programs aimed at potential buyers. It would also support improvements in the way information about missing and exploited children is tracked. These children are at high risk for sexual exploitation. The bill urges states to modify prostitution laws so that minors will be treated as victims of trafficking rather than criminals.

This bill fills a gap left by previous anti-trafficking legislation. Services for international trafficking victims are covered by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, but that law generally has not been applied to domestic minors.

What can you do to support this legislation? Set aside five minutes this Wednesday, November 17 to call or email your Representative about H.R.5575. The Women's Funding Network website has resources for getting in touch with members of Congress and suggestions for what to say when you call or email. Once you've made your call, encourage others to do the same.

The full text of the legislation is available online at the Library of Congress website, where you can also check to see whether your representative is one of the 27 co-sponsors of the bill.

The conservative Christian organization Concerned Women for America has "concerns" about this legislation and the parallel bill making its way through the Senate, S.2925. They want laws allowing minors to be prosecuted as prostitutes to be kept in place.

Letitia Campbell, a Ph.D. candidate in Christian social ethics at Emory University, was a founding editor of Practical Matters (www.practicalmattersjournal.com).

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