Human trafficking is not just a problem in other countries outside the United States. There have been a growing number of girls being trafficked not to outside countries but within the United States. Forced prostitution has been documented for centuries in the U.S. and elsewhere  . Slavery in particular has been intensely scrutinized and debated in the U.S., virtually from the nation's birth, but it was not until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865 that the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution officially abolished it. Seventy-five years later, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibited the practice worldwide. However, modern variations of enslavement persist to this day. During the 1990s, the problem of privately organized forced labor and forced prostitution gained attention both domestically and internationally. The latter, widely known as sex trafficking and the sex trade, are part of the sex industry and its international commercialization and reinvention as sex tourism. Advocates and policymakers labeled these practices "human trafficking" or "trafficking in persons" and called on governments to respond.
There are many protocols set in place for human trafficking on a state, federal, and international level but the trafficking of minors for sex is real and is showing up across the United States. Ohio and New York give us insight into the amount of attention being given to human trafficking, from a small town to a big city.
Ohio and New York serve as great examples for a number of reasons. Ohio may not have as many residents as New York, but both states have seen human trafficking. From Toledo to Times Square, domestic human trafficking is a reality. I want to focus on these states and use them as case studies because although they are not the same size they show us the degree to which this problem has spread.
Showtime's documentary "Very Young Girls" depicts sexual exploitation, street prostitution, and human trafficking in New York  . It shows the harsh reality for the girls who meet the two brothers Anthony and Chris Griffith who are filming their exploits as rising pimps. After watching this documentary of thirteen and fourteen year old American girls forced into prostitution, the streets of New York have never looked bleaker. The film emphasizes the importance of righting the criminal justice code so that the youngest victims of sex trafficking are not trapped in the system.
Many Americans recognize sexual exploitation in countries like the Philippines, Thailand and Ukraine, but not in their own backyards. "When it's happening two blocks away from this auditorium, when it's happening in Bedford-Stuyvesant or Hunts Point or Queens Plaza, we look the other way.  " Children under eighteen years of age are the largest group of trafficking victims in the United States  .
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines a human trafficking victim as:
a person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. Any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was present  .
There were several factors that led to the introduction of legislation against human trafficking beginning in the 1980s including increased media attention, the AIDS movement, and the publicity of child sex-tourism. All of this interest led to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its reauthorizations in 2003 and 2005. Previous to the passage of the TVPA Reauthorization Act of 2005 child prostitution was a state crime but now it is a crime that involves the federal government. According to this definition then trafficked girls should not be arrested instead they should be treated by a doctor and assigned the proper care necessary.
The Department of Justice has released the statistics of human trafficking in the United States and a third (thirty two percent) of the 1,229 alleged human trafficking incidents involved sex trafficking of children. A little more than half of all victims in alleged human trafficking incidents were U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens accounted for sixty three percent of sex trafficking victims  .
The government is obligated to eliminate sex trafficking by international law. The Convention on the Rights of a Child requires that States parties protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse (Articles 34 and 35). The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons recognizes that all children under eighteen who are sexually exploited are trafficking victims  . In 2005, the United States became the ninety-fifth country to ratify this protocol. States have been ignoring their obligations and there should be a strong and effective prosecution of perpetrators. This prosecution should include the buyers and sellers of women and girls in prostitution and related practices of sexual exploitation. In all cases involving young girls, buyers must be recognized and penalized as child abusers and rapists under applicable local laws.
The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is defined as the
"sexual abuse of a minor for economic gain. It involves physical abuse, pornography, prostitution, and the smuggling of children for unlawful purposes"  . In this definition of CSEC are children who are victims of child prostitution or domestic minor trafficking. Child sex trafficking occurs in all types of communities, within one city, within one state, or amongst many. This has been the case in Ohio, which has had cases of local trafficking networks and multi-state networks  .
Case Study: Ohio
The FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children chose Toledo, Ohio as a top recruitment city for trafficking children into the sex industry  . Ohio's geography, highway system, and the amount of people living in poverty make it vulnerable and allow trafficking to occur. Ohio has no anti-trafficking criminal provisions, task forces, research commissions, or law enforcement training. Ohio needs state laws to address human trafficking because its revised code does not address it; it only addresses elements of human trafficking. Elements of human trafficking are too vague to be applied in any specific case.
In Ohio, there have been a number of trafficking incidents found and from one town to another there are stark differences as to their tactics. In Toledo there were prominent cases of human trafficking, in which girls between the ages of ten to seventeen were found forced into prostitution known as the Innocence Lost cases  . The Toledo juvenile justice system treats children involved in CSEC as victims rather than offenders, while Columbus, and most other Ohio cities seemingly arrest and prosecute victims of trafficking possibly due to lack of training and education, funding issues, and high caseloads  . Furthermore, there is no awareness of possible juvenile sex-trafficking victims in Columbus, despite the broad consideration of the issue in Toledo.
In 2004, the Ohio Legislative Service Committee released a research memorandum entitled A Comparison of the Provisions Against Trafficking in Human Beings of the Model State Anti-trafficking Criminal Statute and the Revised Code. The memorandum attempted to compare Ohio law to the Department of Justice's state model law for human trafficking. In doing so, the memorandum concluded that Ohio's Revised Code had sufficiently met the standards of the model law because it already prohibited the criminal activities identified. Although the Ohio statutes cover elements of human trafficking, they are not comprehensive in scope. For example, one major deficiency is the lack of a legal definition of involuntary servitude under the Revised Code. The memorandum makes too many assumptions on definitions and its interpretation of statutes. Ohio needs to create a more comprehensive law to cover all elements of trafficking and expressly prohibit it as a crime.
Case Study: New York
New York City serves as the capital of the world, with its allure it attracts all types of people but sometimes not the kind you would want to be your next-door neighbor. Acting as the capital of the world, New York City presented an excellent research site. The documentary "Very Young Girls" shows the developing problem of domestic minor sex trafficking throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Sixteen year old Dominique shares her story and begins by saying that when she ran away she hadn't gone more than a block from home when a pimp pulled up along side of her. In one of the film's most shocking scenes, an attorney argues that a fourteen year old girl rescued from an abusive pimp who had kidnapped her for five days and subjected her to rape, be denied parole and charged with prostitution. Happily, the judge, citing the need for "a chance to prove they can do what they need to do," releases the girl to her mother and refers her to GEMS. Today, trafficked girls are being arrested for prostitution in violation of many protocols while pimps go free, something that this film clearly shows.
Shared Hope International has been combating sex trafficking around the world, advocating for enhanced legislation, and furthering victim identification and access to services  . Shared Hope International conducted an assessment in Buffalo, New York to help domestic trafficking victims, which has identified seventy to eighty trafficked minors since the year 2000.
Buffalo's location on an international border should increase the amount of attention devoted to human trafficking just like Ohio's close proximity to the Canadian border makes it an excellent port of entry for international trafficking not only domestic human trafficking. Although there is such a program like this in existence, the lack of training to identify Domestic Minor Trafficking victims have led to few being properly identified and very few prosecutions of traffickers. The prosecutions that have occurred were federal cases and no buyers or facilitators have been prosecuted.
The New York state sex trafficking law does not parallel the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. New York State trafficking law does not include language listing anyone under the age of 18 involved in commercial sexual acts as victim while the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act does  . Prostitution laws allow for the criminalization of minors under the age of eighteen because of local laws in Buffalo, minors under the age of sixteen are not charged; however; minors who are sixteen or seventeen have been charged and jailed for prostitution in town and city courts- these same children are clearly defined as sex trafficking victims by the federal law. There is this discord that exists within the levels of government: federal, state, and local that must be addressed in order to move forward and help these victims. Due to this discord most victims of human trafficking are suffering re-victimization.
The New York Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act decriminalizes child prostitution, recognizing these children as victims, not criminals, and provides them with necessary social services  . It requires local districts to provide crisis intervention services and community based programming for exploited youth. Currently, individuals under the age of 18 who are arrested for prostitution or other illegal activities of a sexual nature enter the criminal justice system with the legal presumption that they are juvenile delinquents. This law will take effect next year in April 2010.
This may seem like progress, but this will only defer criminal prosecution for first time offenders under the age of sixteen along with other factors that make it seem like trafficking laws are at a stand still. The child prostitutes will be seen as victims, not as perpetrators. A conviction as a "juvenile delinquent" is supposed to be traded for services including counseling and shelter. Given the severity of the suffering of these trafficking victims, it is especially disturbing that the Safe Harbor Act carries with it no funding for support services. In fact, it only mandates the creation of one safe house for the entire state. Here we thought some progress was being made only to find that although the legislation decriminalizes prostitution for minors there is no money to help these young girls come out of their situations.
Although it is apparent that a problem exists reliable data about the scale and character of trafficking in the U.S. is still hard to find nearly a decade later. This is largely because no standardized measurement tools or procedures for systematic data collection, retention, and sharing have been developed. Partnering with a set of diverse local stakeholders, the New York City Trafficking Assessment Project (NYCTAP) developed a screening tool to identify likely victims of trafficking and an accompanying toolkit for service providers to support the administration of the screening tool  . In the process, we developed and field-tested protocols for sustainable data collection and retention, which could serve as platforms for the wider sharing and aggregation of data.
In order to address domestic trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was reauthorized again in 2005. It was supposed to do a number of things including but not limited to:
"It would authorize new funds to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, authorize grants to State and local law enforcement for investigation and prosecutions, authorize grants for NGO victim service providers, establish a pilot program for residential rehabilitation facilities for domestic trafficking victims, and authorize a study of best practices and a pilot program for demand and reduction measures"  .
The TVPA does have its limitations and weaknesses as federal legislation. The include: lack of harsh penalties for sexual abuse; lack of appropriation of resources for emergency housing for minor victims; and the lack of funding to meet the needs of domestic victims in general. On a state level, eighty percent of prosecutors indicated that their state currently had anti-trafficking in persons legislation, yet only twenty percent indicating that the state legislation has helped with the prosecution of Trafficking in Persons cases.
Untrained service providers may not recognize indicators of trafficking victimization or they may misclassify trafficking as something else, such as labor exploitation or domestic violence. Similarly, lacking training and investigative experience, law enforcement agents may mistake human trafficking for other look-alike crimes, such as smuggling, illegal employment, or prostitution. In the process, they may mistake victims for offenders. Lacking the right tools, no amount of motivation, willingness, and resources will lead to constructive action and remedies. Knowing how to measure human trafficking in practice is the first step in understanding and, in turn, curbing and controlling it.
Clearly there is a problem with human trafficking in the United States hence the legislation created to address the issue on a federal, state, and international level, but the lack of funding perpetuates the problem. Lack of funding to create prevention programs, educational programs to help train law enforcement and agencies identify Domestic Minor Trafficking victims. With this new law in place, the funds that New York State now spends to incarcerate sexually exploited children should be redirected to cover the cost of providing the specialized services the young victims in order to live free from abuse. One of the most significant gaps, which exist in victim assistance, is secure emergency, short term, and long-term shelter due to funding shortages. As a result, there is a tendency to keep child victims of trafficking in juvenile detention centers  .
Currently there are three pending bills in Ohio on human trafficking. One of those bills is on the creation of a taskforce or research commission on trafficking and the other is an anti-trafficking criminal bill.The problem is that there is a belief that just because there is a prevalence of trafficking it is not large enough of a problem to warrant financial appropriations. Forty-eight of the fifty states have seen elements of trafficking  , many of which were never treated as such by law enforcement of other legal entities because of the lack of awareness  . Twenty seven of the fifty states have state laws while seventeen have pending state laws does that not seem like enough to provide adequate funding since the United States is obligated to protect its children by international law. And those states that have those laws should uphold and enforce them appropriating the necessary attention and funds.
A significant systems issue to assisting victims of child sex trafficking is the system breakdown between child welfare and juvenile justice systems with identification, response, and treatment of victims of domestic minor sex trafficking  . According to research conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice about four thousand youth are involved in the sex trade in New York City. They should not be criminalized instead they should be identified and not put have restrictions placed on them, for example with New York's Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act. There appears to be an incorrect perception by the child welfare system that children victimized by sex trafficking are guilty of the crime of prostitution and should be handled by the juvenile justice system  . Under the Safe Harbor Act, those 15 and younger arrested for prostitution would no longer be charged as juvenile delinquents, which carries the threat of placement in a secure juvenile facility for up to 12 months. Instead, a proceeding would determine if the girl or boy is a "person in need of supervision." The bill's sponsors see this as a more compassionate response, but they fail to recognize a key reality: Such a "PINS proceeding" lacks sufficient enforcement mechanisms to compel these young teens to accept counseling and support services - which is the act's goal. In a juvenile-delinquency court, there are consequences for failing to complete court-ordered social services. Not so for a PINS proceeding. And these children - and their pimps - would know that.
We must come together and appropriate the funds to an emerging problem in our
society. According to Governor David Paterson,
"As a society we must do everything in our power to prevent sexual exploitation, but when it does occur we must be prepared to assist our youth with appropriate outreach services. For too long we have been disciplining young children who are the victims of brutal sexual exploitation instead of providing them with the necessary services to reintegrate them into society and ensure they receive adequate crisis intervention"  .
If that is the case than why not give or make the necessary arrangements to give. Legislation can only show that there is an interest in the issue. Results are what show commitment to making the situation better. Legislation was presented but no funds were made available.
A prominent opponent of the bill is the Bloomberg administration. City Hall agrees that the girls are victims, said John Feinblatt, the mayor's criminal justice coordinator. But "the PINS process has no teeth," he said, and so keeping these children firmly in the court system is preferable  .
There are only two outlets in New York that specifically target victims of domestic trafficking especially the youth. In such a vast state it would be great to have a largerß number throughout the city. According to a 2007 report from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, over two thousand two hundred children are victimized through commercial sexual exploitation in New York City  . The Paul and Lisa Program provide food, clothing and other physical supplies though their street outreach program. They actively seek out victims and refer them to shelter and restoration programs  .
Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) has focused its primary outreach efforts towards young women in the criminal justice system, foster care system and on the streets. GEMS was specifically designed to meet the needs of at-risk young women by providing them with empathetic, consistent support and viable opportunities for positive change. GEMS provides holistic case management, long-term mentoring and other specialized supportive services  . GEMS provides preventive and transitional services to young women, ages thirteen to twenty one, who are at risk for or involved in sexual exploitation and violence. GEMS was founded in January 1999 in response to the overwhelming need for services for young women at-risk for, or involved in, sexual exploitation who were slipping through the cracks of traditional agencies. It became clear that specialized services were essential for this disenfranchised population. It is the only organization in New York State that was specifically intended to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.
Sexual exploitation of girls is a violation of their fundamental human rights and all governments must take action to eradicate these destructive practices. Governments and civil society must recognize that the commoditization and sexualization of a minor has a profoundly negative impact on human dignity and the achievement of human rights and equality. You cannot even consent to sex in New York until the age of seventeen, yet when money changes hands the girl is a criminal and the john isn't a rapist. There needs to be more programs like GEMS which specifically target and work to help victims of domestic trafficking.
It is not clear why human trafficking moved center stage as it did in the 1990s. Barbara Stolz argues that "three elements of policy change came together around the trafficking issue: trafficking was recognized by governments as a problem that had to be addressed; policy solutions were thought to be available; and the political climate was ripe for change."  These convergent events pushed human trafficking onto the national policy agenda, despite the fact that it was neither new nor visibly growing.  The mounting recognition of human trafficking as a "problem" appears to have been the product of a process of "collective definition," and a documented surge in prevalence.
Knowledge of the scale and scope of social problems is critical to commanding attention and sparking action, especially in environments where resources are limited and other problems present similar urgencies. When problems are identified and quantified, it becomes possible to propose measured solutions. "Men can co-exist on the condition that they recognize each other as being all equally, though differently, human but they can also co-exist by denying each other a comparable degree of humanity, and thus establishing a system of subordination"  . On that note, we should take a look at the way we do live and learn to address problems; policy is enacted but not enforced. Legislation is presented but never really addressed if it is too complicated. We have one thing in this country that must be our number one concern and that is children; their welfare and their future are in our hands. It has been almost a hundred and fifty years since slavery ended, how this exploitation can continue to exist is a reason why it should be addressed. We should do everything in our power to protect them not only because international law says so, but because as a society how are we supposed to continue to survive if we are exploiting our most valuable asset.