New York’s efforts to stop sex trafficking were recently rated a D, one of 5 states with the lowest grades in the country.
New York is only one of two states (Alabama is the other) that still requires proof of force, fraud, or coercion for sex trafficking even when the victim is a minor.
Children are major targets of human traffickers because they are easier for traffickers to control and because of the growing demand for younger and younger girls.
Background on the bill and sex trafficking in New York
Neither federal nor international law require prosecutors to prove coercion when victims are minors. Children are legally unable to consent to sex and coercion is therefore inherent in child sex trafficking.
Sex traffickers of children do not always need to resort to coercion in order to induce their victims into prostitution. Children with histories of abuse, neglect, and economic deprivation are easily manipulated by exploiters who promise them resources, a safe place to live, protection, and love.
For example if a 15 year-old girl were recruited into the commercial sex trade by a pimp - despite the fact that the girl is a minor and that under federal law this is considered sex trafficking - under NY law the pimp would only be charged with promoting prostitution if prosecutors can not prove force, fraud, or coercion. Due to the nature of how pimps and traffickers recruit young girls, frequently using grooming or seduction techniques, it is often hard for prosecutors to show that there was force, fraud, or coercion. In this case the pimp would be sentenced to 1 to 3 years under NY law even though he was commercially sexually exploiting a child. Under federal law the pimp would have been charged with sex trafficking and sentenced to a minimum of 10 years to life in prison.
New York’s current law puts the burden on child victims to testify in court about the most brutal and humiliating details of their ordeal, often to devastating effect. Victims who testify are often retraumatized by the experience and many choose not to do so, allowing their traffickers to go free on lesser charges, sometimes even only probation.
“You’re looking at one to three years on that charge, you can end up with probation for what is essentially child rape for profit,” said Laura Edidin, chief of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit.
Bill A-6823B, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, would eliminate the requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion for minor trafficking victims in New York State. The bill would make child sex trafficking a felony when an individual intentionally advances or profits from prostitution of a child less than eighteen years old. It also provides an affirmative defense to those 19 and younger who were themselves being trafficked.
This bill would give New York State prosecutors more tools to help protect victims and bring human traffickers to justice and ensure they are punished appropriately for their crimes.
Federal law and the majority of states recognize that children cannot consent to sex and that requiring force, fraud, or coercion in sex trafficking is too high a burden for children. It’s time that New York recognize this too.
Let’s make sure this bill gets the full vote it deserves in the NY Assembly!
New Yorker raise your voice and contact your Assembly Member and the Speaker of Assembly Carl Heastie and urge them to support the End Child Sex Trafficking Bill!
Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie can be contacted at the following telephone numbers: 718-654-6539 and 518-455-3791 or via email at Speaker@nyassembly.gov.