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

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Action Number: 
50.1
IMPORTANT: This archived action campaign has been completed or discontinued, and the information contained in it may not be current. Please see Take Action for current and ongoing campaigns.
Date: 
10 Jun 2013
Update Date: 
25 Jun 2013
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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Equality Now New York Director Lauren Hersh speaks at the 2013 Legislative Lobby Day in Albany, NY.

Ruth grew up in New York City. At 12, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend. She then turned to an "older boyfriend" for love and safety. This "boyfriend" turned out to be a pimp, who forced Ruth to perform sexual acts with men for money. She was required to make nightly quotas, repeatedly raped and brutally beaten. Eventually Ruth was arrested, but mainly due to deficiencies in New York State’s anti-trafficking law, her pimp and the buyers who used her were not held accountable. Ruth was placed at Gateways, a Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA) intensive residential treatment program for commercially sexually exploited youth that helps these youth recognize their trauma, rebuild their self-esteem, return to the community and live productively and independently. Thanks to the incredible support and amazing treatment she received from staff at Gateways, Ruth is now in school and rebuilding the life that was stolen from her.

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

There are countless girls like Ruth who are trafficked for commercial sex and treated like criminals. Yet, the pimps and buyers of these girls are rarely held accountable, even though they are committing crimes.

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 support services.

In order to address these gaps in the law, Equality Now is campaigning with the JCCA and the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition for the passage of the New York Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) to ensure that: 

  • Penalties for buying sex from a minor are aligned with those for statutory rape.
  • 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.
  • All prostituted individuals under the age of eighteen 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.

If passed, this law will 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 – instead of focusing their resources on arresting victims like Ruth.

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,