Selling minors for sex remains a huge issue across the world, but it’s especially bad in Minnesota. With current federal laws, the crime’s young victims may face prostitution charges if they decide to take action against his or her abuser. While the state’s “safe harbor” law begins to remedy this, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is trying to pass a federal version in Congress that needs bipartisan support.
Klobuchar’s leadership on the issue is crucial, given our state’s problem with sex trafficking and our safe harbor law.
The FBI ranks Minnesota in the top 13 states for minor trafficking. In 2011, the Minnesota State Court Administrator’s Office reported 614 trafficking-related charges and 390 trafficking-related convictions. Just this month, a St. Paul man was condemned to 40 years in prison for sex trafficking — the longest sentence yet in Minnesota.
Klobuchar introduced a federal, more comprehensive version of Minnesota’s safe harbor law. The law would treat trafficking survivors as victims rather than criminals. It would also increase support for survivors and help create a database of traffickers.
Sex trafficking is difficult to fight because it’s inherently difficult to see. In a press release, Klobuchar’s office said that on any given night, traffickers sell dozens of girls for sex online in Minnesota. We may have an understanding of female prostitutes as “girls on the corner” from the media, but sex trafficking is hidden around us. Our laws must allow survivors to bring these horrid crimes to light.
If trafficking survivors are to escape, seek justice and move on, then they need help. This country needs a system to assure that they can seek justice without shame or punishment.
Klobuchar spoke in Duluth earlier this month about her new legislation. Klobuchar’s bill, the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, requires states to enact their own safe harbor laws, among other avenues of support.
Under a safe harbor law, states will offer support to survivors by directing them to child protection services, the Job Corps Program and the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking.
A federal push for safe harbor laws will also strengthen sex trafficking databases by putting traffickers in the National Sex Offender Registry. Through a better offender database law, enforcement will hopefully be in a better place to investigate traffickers and reduce trafficking offenses over time.
Sex trafficking is a local issue, but it can happen in any state, region or country. It’s truly a worldwide problem, with more than 27 million victims each year. Trafficking may involve transporting victims across state lines, so fighting traffickers requires federal coverage to be more effective.
Klobuchar has shown impressive leadership on this issue, having also introduced the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act with Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. The legislation offers more resources for law enforcement to support trafficking victims and additional penalties for child sex and human trafficking.
Through Klobuchar’s work, I hope Minnesota and the rest of the nation can better tackle this issue. This outspoken leadership shines a light on this crime in the shadows.