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Excerpt: "It's a stunning contradiction in the law: Girls who are too young to legally consent to sex are being prosecuted for selling it."

 (photo: unknown)
(photo: unknown)

Courts Take a Kinder Look at Victims of Child Sex Trafficking

By National Public Radio

02 March 14


e've all seen them: the public service announcements about sex trafficking in America. They're plastered on buses and billboards; images of young women exploited for their bodies, with hotlines to call for help.

The numbers are staggering. The Justice Department estimates that each year at least 200,000 children are trafficked for sex in the U.S., and it is said to generate upward of $32 billion a year.

Across the country, teens are being picked up on prostitution charges. It's a stunning contradiction in the law: Girls who are too young to legally consent to sex are being prosecuted for selling it.

Amy Farrell is an expert who studies sex trafficking laws. She tells NPR's Arun Rath some states are trying to fix the problem through what are called safe harbor laws.

Twelve states have passed safe harbor legislation for child victims of sex trafficking, according to Farrell. She says the basic premise of these laws is to give law enforcement and prosecutors a way to divert children who have been prostituted from a juvenile delinquent proceeding and instead put them into what's called a "child in need" proceeding.

In some states without safe harbor laws, there are efforts to set up special courts specifically to deal with these cases.

"This has basically been a whole series of individual judges seeing these cases coming through their courts and becoming passionate and involved in the issue and being willing to work with prosecutors, the defense bar and service providers to establish these problem-solving courts," she says.

Creating A Safe Place

In California, there is no safe-haven law; minors can, and are, prosecuted for prostitution. But in Los Angeles County, Judge Catherine Pratt has set up a special juvenile court to help victims of sex trafficking.

During the last few years, Pratt has been consumed by her work helping young victims of sex trafficking get treated as just that: victims. She says it's been a tough battle because the justice system treats anyone who sells sex as a criminal — even a child.

In normal juvenile courts, young women who are picked up for prostitution don't get counseling and other services — they get punished. Girls can be sentenced to juvenile detention or forced to testify against their exploiter.

Pratt remembers one case that made her believe the system was broken. A young girl was asked to testify against her pimp, in a public adult court, in a case that involved her being drugged into unconsciousness. She was asked by the district attorney to review a tape of the incident, which she had never seen, and identify the defendants in the court.

"It was a devastating experience for her, and she has struggled ever since then," Pratt says. "So that is one of the cases I feel very badly about. I feel like we did a very poor job of protecting her from that and preparing her for that. It's one of the lessons that I learned about how to work with these kids."

So Pratt set out to create a court that would protect girls from trauma at the hands of the justice system and focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment. Girls in her court are placed into special group homes with trauma counselors and sexual education resources. And, in general, the girls aren't compelled to testify against their abusers. It's all about gaining trust, Pratt says.

"When you first meet some of these kids, they are pretty off-putting," she says. "They have these levels of trauma that really prevent them from making connections with people."

Finding Normalcy

To help these victims of sex trafficking make connections with trusted adults, Pratt's court partners with advocacy groups, where adult survivors of sex trafficking work as mentors.

Kristina Fitz is a survivor who mentors for Saving Innocence, a non-profit organization aimed at helping rescue and restore child victims of sex trafficking. Fitz is assigned to 25 girls; she meets with each one for three hours a week for counseling. She says they look up to her because she knows what they went through. Fitz was trafficked for sex for more than three years.

"I'm like a support system to them, so if they want to talk about certain issues that they can't really talk about, or they don't have anybody to talk to," Fitz says. "I take them out on trips, out of their group homes, so they can see there's things other than just working and being exploited through prostitution."

One of the things she teaches girls is how to recognize men who will exploit them, something they call the "Prince Charming guy." Fitz says these are typically men who will manipulate them and make them feel loved by buying them things like a cellphone, jewelry or clothes.

"Those might be little things to us adults, but to children who have never had that before, that's a big deal to them," she says. "So it's easy to manipulate a child by giving her these simple little things."

Fitz says the program also teaches the girls sexual education, like condom use and about sexually-transmitted diseases, as well as helping them with their self-esteem and assertiveness.

The Next Problem

Judge Pratt says that initially her treatment-focused approach was working as intended. It improved the ability to prosecute the traffickers. But then something else happened. A lot of the boys who were coming out of foster care and the juvenile justice system were becoming pimps.

"The foster care system and juvenile justice system is creating both sides of this market, the suppliers and the goods," she says.

Nationwide, pimps are prosecuted far less often than the children they exploit. The men who buy sex from minors are very rarely prosecuted. Farrell says states are beginning to change the law, stiffening the penalties for purchasing sex from a child.

"The bigger problem isn't so much changing the laws — we're starting to do that — the real challenge will be convincing law enforcement and the judiciary to hold people who purchase sex from trafficked persons accountable," she says. "I think prosecutors are reluctant to pursue prosecution against johns because it's not been politically expedient to do so in many communities."

As for the girls in Pratt's special court, she thinks the court has been very successful. She's even working with a national organization of juvenile court judges to teach others how to work with victims of sex trafficking.

The most rewarding thing, though, is her relationship with the girls. Her office looks more like that of a beloved school principal than a judge, with framed pictures of Pratt at birthdays and graduations for the young women who have come through her court.

"Next week one of my girls who was on probation to me turns 19, so she just contacted me and said she wanted to go to dinner," she says.

The grant that funds the court runs out at the end of this year, and Pratt says she's not sure what will happen then. The county has said the budget cannot support the program. your social media marketing partner


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+5 # tm7devils 2014-03-03 01:04
I say, cut the prosecutor's and judge's salaries to keep the program going...
+1 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-03-03 09:46
How will that help? Triage & Justice don't work well together.
+7 # ritawalpoleague 2014-03-03 03:56
Judge Pratt: Your honor, I praise you for what you are doing. I'm an old cert. legal assistant who, for a number of years, worked in admin. law, representing disabled juveniles and their families and guardians.

Approx. ten years ago, I met a man, a retired CIA agent, who opened up and confessed to me, in a very unhappy and remorseful manner, that when active in the CIA, he had been ordered by CIA officials to find and deliver juveniles to specified adults, for sexual purposes said adults wished performed. I gave the former agent my condolences, saying that it was obvious to me how much this trafficking had bothered and upset him. We then both agreed, it was the children so trafficked who deserved the condolences and our sympathy.

My hope, and the reason I blog this, is to get this info. out, and attempt to have put into effect a presidential order prohibiting any and all sexual trafficking of juveniles by govt. agents. And, in addition, I praise you and your efforts to assist vs. prosecute these young victims of any and all trafficking, including those manipulated as described.

Certainly takes lots and lots of courage and determination now, in these so troubled times to pursue, put, and keep in place the rule of law, and...

0 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2014-03-03 14:42
Part I
The estimated population of the US at the end of 2013 was 317 million.*
Using the same ratios that existed in 2012,**
The estimated number of males was 156 million,
The estimated number of males over 21 was 111 million and over 30 was 90 million.

According to this article, sex trafficking in children under 18 years of age amounts to $32 BILLION every year with an estimated 200,000 child prostitutes, obviously mostly girls.

Assuming $150/trick, that is over 213 million tricks or about 2 tricks for every male in the US over the age of 20 and
Each child went down for a man over 1,000 times. ONE THOUSAND TIMES!

Two tricks per male is just an average. How about we figure out how many tricks/man based on what percentage of men do this at all?

0 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2014-03-03 14:44
Part II
You guys probably think the number of perverts who pay for children is pretty small, right? Say, 2%? 2% of 111 million is 2.2 million men. That would mean on average, these guys did children 96 times a year. That is almost twice a week. And it cost them about $14,400 to do it. I'm guessing 2% is low.

5% of 111 million is 5.6 million. That would mean on average, one out of twenty men you know fuck children 38 times a year. That's still high. It means they're out just about every weekend except for the major holidays when they're stuck at home having to settle for their wives.

How about 10%? That is 11.1 million, one out of every ten men you know. At $150/trick, that works out to about 19 tricks/year.

Men - How often do YOU go trolling for child prostitutes? How do you feel knowing that millions of men in the US screw children on a regular basis? Do you think that wanting to have sex with children is a good thing? Normal for men? If you don’t, what do YOU think should be done about these men? As the article points out, the johns are rarely prosecuted. Do you think that’s okay… just good old boys having fun and hey… the little bitch is making money, right? Or do you think they should have their names published in police blotters? Do you think they are mentally ill and need psychological help? Should johns be arrested and tried for statutory rape?

Or do you think nothing should be done because these guys are just doing what you secretly wish you could do?

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