United States

United States: Pass the Trafficking Victims Protection & Justice Act in New York

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2013 Jun 10
Update Date: 
2013 Jun 25
Update: 

25 JUNE 2013 UPDATE - In a positive step for 16 and17 year-old sex trafficking victims, on 22 June, the New York State legislature passed a bill extending its Safe Harbor Law to cover all prostituted individuals under the age of eighteen (previously only victims aged 15 and under were covered). Now, 16 and 17 year-old victims who are arrested for prostitution will be classified as trafficking victims, thereby allowing them to access treatment services rather than jail time. Their criminal records will also be sealed so as not to penalize them further while they rebuild their lives. Equality Now congratulates Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator Andrew Lanza for their incredible work in ensuring passage of this bill during this legislative session.

Unfortunately, due to political grandstanding in Albany, the TVPJA was not passed. However, we are optimistic that the bill will ultimately pass during New York’s next legislative term as there was significant support for it in both the Senate and Assembly. Over the next few months, Equality Now and our partners will strategize on a plan to secure passage of the TVPJA during the next legislative session. Thank you to our thousands of supporters for petitioning the New York legislature in support of this campaign, and we hope we can count on your continued support in 2014.


 

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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

The TVJPA will be up for vote this legislative session, which ends June 20. Please join our campaign today!

  • Write to the government officials below and urge them to pass the TVPJA during the June 2013 legislative session.
  • If you live in New York, ask your district’s legislators to pass the TVPJA. Click on the links to find your assemblyperson or senator.
  • Learn more about Ruth and other girls from Gateways program as part of Equality Now’s yearlong campaign, Survivor Stories, which showcases survivor leadership in the anti-trafficking movement - www.equalitynow.org/survivorstories

Letters should go to:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Email: gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us
Social media links:
Twitter: @NYGovCuomo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GovernorAndrewCuomo

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Legislative Office Building, Room 932
Albany, NY 12247
Email: speaker@assembly.state.ny.us

Senator Dean G. Skelos
Temporary President and Majority Coalition Leader of the New York State Senate
Legislative Office Building, Room 909
Albany, NY 12247
Email: skelos@nysenate.gov
Social media links:
Twitter: @SenatorSkelos
Facebook: www.facebook.com/senatordeanskelos

Letters: 

Dear Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Silver, Senator Dean G. Skelos:

I am writing to request your support of the New York Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA, Paulin/Lanza A.2240/S.2135) and urge its passage during the June 2013 session.

According to the New York Office of Child and Family Services, thousands of children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in New York annually. Yet, the sellers and buyers of these children are rarely arrested.

New York must do better. Currently the violent crime of trafficking is a “non-violent” offense under state law. A person who buys a minor for sex receives a lower penalty than someone convicted of raping a minor of the same age. To compound this, someone who buys sex from a minor is afforded the defense that “he did not know the victim was a child”; no such defense exists for other forms of child abuse. Furthermore, New York continues to treat 16 and 17 year old trafficking victims who are arrested for prostitution as criminals instead of victims who require treatment and supportive services.

Please pass the TVPJA so that trafficking is made a violent felony and that penalties for buying sex from a minor are aligned with those for statutory rape; that New York’s anti-trafficking laws are brought in line with the federal anti-trafficking statute by removing the requirement that prosecutors prove that underage trafficking victims were coerced into sexual acts; and, that all prostituted individuals under the age of 18 are classified as trafficking victims, thereby eliminating the exception for 16 and 17 year olds, and ensuring that they receive support services instead of criminal records. The law would also give New York’s law enforcement better tools to target and arrest the pimps and buyers who are supporting this multi-billion dollar trafficking industry – not the victims.

New York has consistently been at the forefront of anti-trafficking efforts. It was one of the first states in the country to pass anti-trafficking legislation. I encourage you to keep up this incredible effort by working to pass the TVPJA. Thank you in advance for taking all legislative and policy measures to ensure that New York’s girls and women are protected from trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

Sincerely,

United States: Address role of U.S. military in fueling global sex trafficking

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2013 Mar 4

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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

  • Please call on the U.S. government to enforce Article 134 of the UCMJ on “pandering” and “patronizing a prostitute” and affirm its commitment to combating the demand for commercial sex that fuels sex trafficking. Doing so would help ensure that the United States lives up to its national and international commitments to prevent the sex trafficking and exploitation of women and girls around the world, and its zero tolerance policy on human trafficking.
  • Read Alma’s story as part of Equality Now’s yearlong campaign, Survivor Stories, which showcases survivor leadership in the anti-trafficking movement: www.equalitynow.org/survivorstories

Letters should be addressed to:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
United States of America
Fax: + 1 202-456-2461
E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov
www.whitehouse.gov/contact

The Hon. Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
Office of the Sec. of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Tel: +1(703) 571-3343
Fax: +1(703) 571-8951
E-mail: chuck.hagel@osd.mil

Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca
U.S. Department of State
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
1800 G Street NW,
Washington D.C., 20520
Tel: +1(202) 312-9639
Fax:  +1(202) 312-9637

Letters: 

Dear President/Secretary/Ambassador,

I am concerned about the U.S. military’s role in fueling sex trafficking and exploitation in the commercial sex industry around the world. The U.S. government has officially recognized the link between the demand for commercial sex and the sex trafficking industry, and took action in 2005 to ban U.S. service members from purchasing sex. However, I am troubled that this provision against purchasing sex is not being adequately enforced. Recent news articles and reports indicate that women and girls continue to be trafficked to and exploited in brothels around U.S. military bases overseas despite the U.S. government’s zero tolerance policy on sex trafficking and the demand that fuels it.

Sex trafficking is a criminal industry that operates on the market principles of supply and demand. The demand is created by men who pay for commercial sex, ensuring that sex trafficking continues to exist. Traffickers, pimps and facilitators profit from this demand by supplying the millions of women and girls who are exploited on a daily basis around the world. The U.S. government is bound by international and national anti-trafficking laws and policies to reduce this demand. Lack of enforcement of the military provision banning the purchase of sex undermines the U.S. government’s commitment to combating sex trafficking, and perpetuates the abuse of women and girls around the world.

I respectfully urge the U.S. government to enforce the provision banning U.S. service members from purchasing sex and affirm its commitment to combating the demand  that fuels sex trafficking. Doing so would help ensure the United States lives up to its national and international commitments to prevent the sex trafficking and exploitation of women and girls around the world, and its zero tolerance policy on human trafficking. Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Global Sex Trafficking & the Guy Next Door - The Need To End Demand (HuffPo)

1/11/2013 -- Huffington Post -- "Global Sex Trafficking & the Guy Next Door" On Human Trafficking Awareness Day, New York Office Director Lauren Hersh discusses the need to address the role of demand in the fight against sex trafficking.

The War on Trafficking: Proposition 35 (In These Times)

12/24/2012 -- In These Times -- "The War on Trafficking: Will California’s crackdown do more harm than good?"; Kenneth Franzblau, anti-trafficking consultant for Equality Now, debates a new controversial anti-trafficking law in California.

How Much Must Women Sacrifice to Serve? (HuffPo)

11/12/2012 -- Huffington Post -- "How Much Must Women Sacrifice to Serve?" New York Office Director Lauren Hersh on sexual assault in the military.

Military sexual assault survivors face major obstacles in accessing support services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2012
Contacts:  Equality Now: Kristen Berg, 212-586-0906, kberg@equalitynow.org
                  SWAN: Katy Otto, 240-478-9387, katy@servicewomen.org

United States: Sexual assault of women in the military must be stopped

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Oct 2
Update Date: 
2013 Feb 13
Update: 

20 AUGUST 2013 UPDATE: Recent developments indicate some Congressional and military momentum to address sexual assault in the military:

On 15 August, the US Department of Defense (DOD) gave an update on sexual assault prevention and response measures, during which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s seven new initiatives to “strengthen and standardize the department’s sexual assault prevention and response effort” were outlined. Though Equality Now welcomes the DOD’s acknowledgment of the seriousness of the issue, the initiatives do not make the structural changes needed for violence to be prevented and for victims to access justice. As our partner SWAN stated, “small-scale military sexual assault solutions will not stem the cultural tide created by years of victim blaming and retaliation." Therefore we will continue to advocate for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) which would professionalize the military justice system and bring much needed justice to victims of sexual assault. Senator Gillibrand will be calling for a full Senate floor vote on the MJIA bill following the August Congressional recess. If you are in the US, please ask your Senator to support passage of this bill.

We are also encouraged by the House of Representatives’ passage in July of two amendments in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 (HR 2397), offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), relating to the handling of sexual assault cases. This follows a recent report by the DOD Inspector General who found serious failures in the handling of military sexual assault investigations. Out of 501 investigations, 418 had “deficiencies” which compromised the victim’s chance of obtaining justice, and, overall, 399 of these cases had interview and post-interview deficiencies. Weaknesses were found in the interview process, collection of evidence, lead development and crime scene photography. The amendments address the pervasive misuse of ‘personality and adjustment disorder’ as a diagnosis of victims of sexual assault and provide additional funding to train investigators of sexual assault crimes. We hope the Senate will also show bi-partisan support for those that have suffered sexual assault in the US military by passing this bill.


24 MAY 2013 UPDATE: On 7 May, the US Department of Defense released their 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.  The report plainly showed that efforts to combat sexual assault in the military are not having the desired effect, and in fact, sexual violence and the culture of impunity are getting worse. Shockingly, the number of reported sexual assaults rose in every branch of the military with a 35% increase overall since 2010, from 19,300 service members in 2010 to 26,000 in 2012. Coming on the heels of the arrest for sexual battery of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the officer in charge of US Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, and followed by revelations that two other US Army sexual assault prevention officers were accused of sex crimes, including an allegation linking one to a prostitution ring, it is abundantly clear that current efforts to address sexual assault in the US military are not being taken seriously.

Therefore, Equality Now welcomed the 16 May introduction of the
Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a bi-partisan bill which would remove the power to prosecute sexual assault from military commanders and transfer it to professional prosecutors. Equality Now and our partner SWAN (Service Women’s Action Network) have been consistently advocating for this reform and will be following the bill closely as it moves through the legislative process to ensure that sexual assault victims have access to justice in the military.


13 FEBRUARY 2013 UPDATE: Senator Jon Tester and Representative Chellie Pingree introduced the “Ruth Moore Act of 2013.” Named in recognition of Navy veteran, military sexual assault survivor and activist Ruth Moore (subject of our Action), the bill would lower the evidentiary burden needed to prove service-related PTSD for survivors so that they can receive benefits and necessary services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The passage of this bill would fulfill one of the three objectives of Equality Now's campaign, and we will be following this process closely as it progresses.


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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Please join Equality Now and our partner SWAN in calling on:


The Secretary of Defense and the House & Senate Armed Services Committee Chairs to:
  • Reform the military justice system so that professional military prosecutors – not the perpetrator’s command – are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have recently reformed their military justice systems in this manner so that commanders do not wield undue (and unmonitored) influence over sexual assault cases.

 Send letters to:

The Hon. Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
Office of the Sec. of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Tel: +1(703) 571-3343
Fax: +1(703) 571-8951
Email: chuck.hagel@osd.mil

Congressman Buck McKeon
House Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2184 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-1956
Fax: +1(202) 226-0683
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BuckMcKeon
Twitter: @BuckMcKeon

Senator Carl Levin
Senate Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
269 Russell Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-6221
Fax: +1(202) 224-1388
Facebook: www.facebook.com/carllevin
Twitter: @SenCarlLevin

The Secretary of Defense, the House & Senate Armed Services Committee Chairs, and the House & Senate Judiciary Committee Chairs to:

  • Allow survivors of sexual assault in the military to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer – the U.S. military – accountable for sexual harassment and assault.

 Send letters to:

The Honorable Chuck Hagel, Congressman Buck McKeon, Senator Carl Levin (contacts listed above)

Senator Patrick Leahy
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
437 Russell Senate Bldg
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-4242
Fax: 202-224-3479
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SenatorPatrickLeahy
Twitter: @SenatorLeahy

Congressman Lamar Smith
House Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2409 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: 202-225-4236
Fax: 202-225-8628
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LamarSmithTX21
Twitter: @LamarSmithTX21

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the House & Senate Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chairs to:

  • Provide survivors suffering from PTSD stemming from their sexual assault with the services they need to recover from their trauma by lowering the unnecessarily high evidentiary burden they face in order to prove their assault and access disability benefits.

 Send letters to:

The Hon. Eric Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: +1(800) 827-1000
Email: Eric.Shinseki@va.gov

The Honorable Allison Hickey
Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: 1.800.827.1000
Email: Allison.hickey@va.gov

Congressman Jeff Miller
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2416 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-4136
Fax: +1(202) 225-3414
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RepJeffMiller

Senator Patty Murray
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. Senate
269 Russell Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-2621
Fax: +1(202) 224-0238
Twitter: @PattyMurray

Letters: 

Letter Regarding Reform of the Justice System

Dear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the continued impunity for service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women. Approximately 19,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year and as few as 1 out of every 100 sexual assaults results in the conviction of the perpetrator.

This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, getting a thorough and impartial investigation, and seeing their rapist/assailant face appropriate charges and punishment. I am concerned that instead of an independent party, an officer within the perpetrator’s chain-of-command is charged with investigating sexual assault complaints and is given an enormous amount of discretion, which can lead to conflicts of interest and abuse of power, especially as both the survivor and perpetrator may be under the same officer’s command. In addition, commanders have an incentive to downplay or cover-up sexual assaults happening within their chain-of-command, as these crimes reflect poorly on the unit.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military, to ensure justice for survivors, and to enable survivors to obtain justice and services violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This Convention requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.
I urge you to reform the military justice system so that professional military prosecutors – not the perpetrator’s command – are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have recently reformed their military justice systems in this manner so that commanders do not wield undue (and unmonitored) influence over sexual assault cases, and I urge you to consider this approach.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
Congressman Buck McKeon, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair


Letter Regarding Civil Remedies

Dear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the continued impunity for service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women. Approximately 19,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year and as few as 1 out of every 100 sexual assaults results in the conviction of the perpetrator.

This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, getting a thorough and impartial investigation, and seeing their rapist/assailant face appropriate charges and punishment. I am concerned that unlike civilians, military rape survivors have no way of holding their employer – the U.S. military – accountable through civil litigation for failing to protect them from sexual assault or harassment.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military and to ensure survivors are able to obtain justice violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.

I urge you to ensure that military women can pursue and obtain justice for harassment and sexual violence they endure.  I call on you to allow survivors of sexual assault in the military to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer accountable for sexual harassment and assault and can obtain the justice they deserve.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
Congressman Buck McKeon, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Patrick Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee, Chair
Congressman Lamar Smith, House Judiciary Committee, Chair


Letter to Veterans' Affairs

Eric Shinseki
Secretary of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the many obstacles sexual assault survivors face in accessing the services they need to recover. There are approximately 19,000 sexual assaults in the U.S. military each year. Sexual assault and harassment cause the same rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in women veterans as combat does in men.

However, sexual assault survivors face particular challenges in accessing disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as VA employees often disbelieve survivors’ accounts of assault – even when backed up by physician’s reports – and require evidence from other sources that corroborate the survivor’s account. This disbelief and failure to provide needed services serves to re-victimize those who seek assistance. Tellingly, only 32% of PTSD claims related to sexual assault are approved by the VA, while 54% of overall PTSD claims are approved. The VA must lower the evidentiary burden needed to prove service-related PTSD and accept the survivor’s testimony alone as proof that the sexual assault occurred.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military and to enable survivors to obtain justice and services violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.

I would like to urge you to revise your policy to ensure that survivors suffering from PTSD stemming from their sexual assault are provided with the services they need without undue delays. I call on you to lower the unnecessarily high evidentiary burden they face in order to prove their assault and access disability benefits.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
The Honorable Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
Senator Patty Murray, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair
Congressman Jeff Miller, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair

United States: Call for zero tolerance on demand that fuels sex trafficking

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 May 1

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What You Can Do: 

Call on U.S. President Barack Obama to issue an Executive Order prohibiting all federal employees and contractors from buying sex as it contributes to sex trafficking, and to ensure that all agency heads strictly enforce such a zero tolerance policy. Doing so would help ensure the United States lives up to its national and international commitments to curb the demand that fuels sex trafficking. >> TAKE ACTION NOW!

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
United States of America
Fax: + 1 202-456-2461
E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov

Letters: 

Dear President Obama:

Following the recent “scandal” involving Secret Service agents and military members traveling on official business buying sex from women in prostitution in Cartagena, Colombia and similar reported incidents worldwide, I am writing to request that the U.S. government act now to end commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. I urge you to issue an Executive Order prohibiting all federal employees and contractors from buying sex as it contributes to sex trafficking, and to ensure all agency heads strictly enforce such a zero tolerance policy.

Demand for commercial sex fuels sex trafficking and exploitation. Millions of women and girls are sold and bought for sexual exploitation in violation of their rights to bodily integrity, equality, dignity, health, and to be free from violence and torture. As part of efforts to prevent sex trafficking, the U.S. government is bound by national and international laws and policies to reduce the demand for commercial sex. In addition, the U.S. anti-trafficking ambassador has made clear that reducing demand is an integral part of the fight to end sex trafficking. Yet, there is no consistent policy on sex trafficking and purchasing sex that covers the conduct of all government employees and contractors.

I respectfully urge the U.S. government to adopt a zero tolerance policy on the demand for commercial sex that fuels sex trafficking. Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,
 

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