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April 2016Vol. 17, No. 2Responding to Child Sex Trafficking With More Effective State Laws

A recent publication by Shared Hope International defines domestic minor sex trafficking as the commercial sexual exploitation via prostitution, pornography, or sexual performance of American children who are younger than age 18 that occurs within the borders of the United States. The 2015 Protected Innocence Challenge: A Legal Framework of Protection for the Nation's Children examines efforts being made to respond to domestic minor sex trafficking by the 50 States and the District of Columbia.

The report identifies key elements necessary to address the needs of child victims and potential victims, including preventing domestic minor sex trafficking through reducing demand, rescuing and restoring victims through improved training on identification, establishing protocols and facilities for victim placement, mandating appropriate services and shelter, and incorporating trauma-reducing mechanisms into the justice system. Within that framework, four primary policy principles were identified as critical to combatting domestic minor sex trafficking: eliminating demand; prosecuting traffickers; identifying victims; and providing protection, access to services, and shelter for victims. The report discusses how each of these principles are addressed in six areas of law:

  • Criminalization of domestic minor sex trafficking
  • Criminal provisions addressing demand
  • Criminal provisions for traffickers
  • Criminal provisions for facilitators
  • Protective provisions for the child victim
  • Criminal justice tools for investigation and prosecution

Using letter grades, the report analyzes how well States have incorporated the six areas of law into their statutes. It also tracks development in State laws over the past 5 years and notes that all States have made improvements in how their laws address the issue of child sex trafficking. The report concludes with a series of issue papers that provide specific examples of State laws that address the policy areas.

Shared Hope International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing an end to sex trafficking. 2015 Protected Innocence Challenge: A Legal Framework of Protection for the Nation's Children is available at (4 MB).