ALBANY, NY, MAY 15, 2018 — Today, the National Organization for Women – New York (NOW-NY), Sanctuary for Families, Not on My Watch, and Women’s Justice NOW brought over 150 advocates, including survivors of sex trafficking, to Albany to lobby the state legislature in support of the End Child Sex Trafficking Act (A.6823-b / S.5988-A). Sponsored by Assemblymember Amy Paulin and State Senator Andrew Lanza, the legislation will close the loophole in New York law that requires prosecutors to prove force or coercion in cases of commercial child sexual exploitation and bring New York’s anti-trafficking laws into alignment with federal law.
At a midday rally, advocates and legislators called on the Assembly and its leadership to take swift action to pass the End Child Sex Trafficking Act which, in addition to aligning state and federal laws on sex trafficking, would alleviate the need for traumatized victims to testify against their trafficker in court and add protections to prevent young trafficking victims from being unnecessarily criminalized.
Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW-NY said, “We cannot stand by and let pimps get away with buying and selling young girls in our state. New York has one of the highest burdens of proof in the entire country for holding sex traffickers accountable for the unconscionable rape and exploitation of children. This must come to an end now.”
Dorchen Leidholdt, Director of the Legal Center at Sanctuary for Families said, “New York State’s coercion requirement shields predators from criminal responsibility for child sex trafficking and leaves them free to prey on our state’s most vulnerable children. The End Child Sex Trafficking Act is narrowly tailored to stop them in their tracks while restoring their victims’ dignity and safety. Victims, survivors, faith leaders, communities, and advocates call on Speaker Carl Heastie to lead the Assembly in joining our federal government and 48 other states in protecting our children from the devastating harm of sex trafficking.”
Rev. Dr. Que English, CEO/Founder of Not on My Watch said, “Speaker Carl Heastie was our champion in the past. We’re asking him to be our champion again and let justice speak loudly by passing the End Child Sex Trafficking Act. New York State must stand firm so these serial rapists can’t continue to destroy the lives of our children and their families.”
Children are major targets of human traffickers: from 2000-2010, service providers in the NYC metro area worked with nearly 12,000 human trafficking survivors – many of whom were children. The number of sexually exploited children in Rochester treated by the Center for Youth Services has more than doubled since 2014, and at least 100,000 US-born children become victims of sex trafficking every year.
Assemblymember Amy Paulin, lead sponsor of the bill said, “When we passed the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act in 2015, we took a huge step forward in holding traffickers, pimps, and patrons accountable for their heinous crimes while providing protection and support to the victims. This bill is the last piece of that puzzle to prevent traffickers from slipping through the cracks. We need to hold them accountable to the maximum extent of the law, given their heinous crimes, without retraumatizing the children who were their victims by forcing them to publicly confront the men who enslaved them.”
“If New York State truly is the progressive bastion we all claim it to be, then the End Child Trafficking Act will pass,” said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte. “This bill will ensure that the burden of proof will not be placed on children. Children lack the emotional capacity to ‘prove’ their victimhood.”
“With over 2 million cases, child sex trafficking remains to be a prevalent issue that impacts many families. These children are victimized under dehumanizing settings that is not only emotionally scarring but impedes their right to a proper childhood. They have not been molded into an emerging adult and yet they are being forced into this solicited illegal sex trade that is estimated to earn over a billion dollars in revenue. I strongly stand alongside my colleagues in the Assembly as we fight to ensure that Child Sex Trafficking is put to an end,” said Assemblymember Maritza Davila.
“Given the complexity of human sex trafficking, it is necessary that we give prosecutors the ability to combat the victimization of minors without having to prove coercion. Current state law recognizes that minors do not have the maturity to give sexual consent. If a child is being sexually exploited for profit, it does not matter if coercion was used or not. Often times these victims are manipulated into trusting their traffickers and will not testify against them, even if fraud and coercion has occurred. I fully support this legislation and look forward to seeing it signed into law. It is time we have the same standard as federal law when protecting human trafficking victims,” said Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter.
Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou said, “Across the country, states have passed laws designed to shield victims of child sex trafficking from the unimaginable trauma and abuse they have faced. Survivors of sex trafficking are on a long and arduous journey towards recovery. It is our job to support them during their path to recovery and as they seek justice for the crimes committed against them. Thank you to my colleagues and advocates for leading the fight to protect victims of child sex trafficking.”
“New York State needs to do everything we can to protect our children, especially our most vulnerable, and end child sex trafficking now,” said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. “Furthermore, re-traumatizing children by requiring prosecutors to prove force or coercion is absolutely wrong. It is time for the Legislature to right this wrong.”
“The physical and emotional trauma endured by the thousands of child sex trafficking victims in New York State is incomprehensible. And yet, New York State remains one of just two states in the country that require children below the age of consent, trafficked and sold into sex against their will, to prove in court that they were coerced,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF- Manhattan).“The law as written creates further emotional trauma for child victims, and only makes it harder for victims to obtain legal justice. We must pass this bill into law this session for the sake of children statewide.”
Assemblymember Latrice Walker said, “Child sex trafficking is happening in our own communities and devastating the lives of our most vulnerable children and their families. New York State needs the strongest laws possible to hold their exploiters accountable and protect victimized children from having to testify about the terrifying, traumatizing details of their abuse.”
Assemblymember Michael Blake said, “The End Child Sex Trafficking Act is a step forward in demanding justice for our youth. As a co-sponsor of this landmark legislation, I stand strong with my colleagues in putting an end to the sexual exploitation of our children and preventing criminal activity that destroys families and communities in the process. I applaud the advocates and survivors for raising a spotlight on the invisible nature of this epidemic. Black and brown girls and boys are oftentimes the most victimized, but they are not faceless and nameless. Protecting our children is of the utmost importance in our community as they are the future leaders of tomorrow and their lives matter.”
Assemblymember Walter T. Mosley said, “The End Child Sex Trafficking Act not only brings New York in line with many other states across the country, but will allow extra protection for trafficked children. By forcing children to testify against their traffickers, we are traumatizing them and hobbling the prosecution of these evil individuals. This bill is a first step towards a world free from child sex trafficking, and I am proud to stand in support of this bill, along with other efforts to keep all children safe by providing mental health support, non-judgemental drug treatment, and resources for victims of child abuse.”
Assemblymember Matthew Titone said, “This legislation will help protect some of New York’s most marginalized citizens. Although any child could potentially fall victim to this heinous crime, children who are homeless or runaways, LGBTQ, African American or Latino, and youth interacting with the child welfare system are more vulnerable to this type of exploitation. The exploitation of children for any reason is unacceptable, and that’s why it is essential that New York State put an end to Child Sex Trafficking.”
The National Organization for Women – New York, Women’s Justice NOW, Sanctuary for Families, and Not On My Watch are current member organizations of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition–organizations that have joined forces to increase public awareness of human trafficking in our communities, enact anti-trafficking laws, improve law enforcement response and increase social services to help people escape trafficking.
Rose Levy, 202.262.1635