Minor Sex Trafficking: How Well North Carolina Protects Children – Charlotte, NC Patch

Most U.S. states are showing improvement in efforts to protect minor children from sex trafficking, which especially affects those in foster care and runaways, according to a new report. North Carolina received a “A” for its efforts to prevent sex trafficking and provide justice to victims.

Shared Hope International said sex trafficking is a booming industry that thrives because of a serious demand for commercial sex with minors. “Every day in America, children are being bought and sold for sex,” the non-profit, non-governmental organization wrote in its 2018 annual report. “And they are waiting for you to notice.”

Commercial sex acts may include prostitution, pornography and sexual performance, whether from pimp-controlled trafficking, gang-controlled trafficking, familial trafficking for basic needs or drugs or “survival sex,” when a minor becomes involved in commercial sex acts to meet basic needs such as food or shelter.

Children are most likely to fall into the net of sex trafficking between the ages of 14-16. Pimps most often find them on social media, but also in their homes or neighborhoods, clubs or bars, school, and the internet.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in seven endangered runaways in 2017 were likely child sex trafficking victims, and 88 percent of those children were in the care of social services or foster care when they went missing.

The Shared Hope International report measured states’ progress in six areas. North Carolina received the following scores, according to the report card:

  • Criminalization of domestic minor sex trafficking: 10 out of 10 possible points;
  • Criminal provisions addressing demand: 23 out of 25 possible points;
  • Criminal provisions for traffickers: 13 out of 15 possible points;
  • Criminal provisions for facilitators: 4.5 out of 10 possible points;
  • Protective provisions for child victims: 25 out of 27.5 possible points;
  • Criminal justice tools for investigations and prosecution: 14.5 out of 15 possible points.
  • Total North Carolina score: 90 points out of 102.5 possible points.

Here are the laws in North Carolina, along with an analysis of their effectiveness by Shared Hope International.

Key Findings
Overall, 10 states received an “A” and 25 received a “B” grade in 2018. That compares to 26 states that got “F” grades in 2011. Shared Hope didn’t hand out any “F” grades in its 2018 report card, but gave five “D” grades and 11 “C” grades.

Tennessee scored the highest in 2018,with 96.5 points, followed by Louisiana (95.5 points); Washington (95 points); Alabama (94.5 points) and Florida (94 points). States showing the most improvement were South Carolina, which improved its score by 11.5 points and moved from a “C” to a “B,” and Alabama, where the score improved by 11 points and the letter grade moved from a “B” to an “A.”

The states receiving “D” ratings were New Mexico and South Dakota, with 69.5 points each; Wyoming with 68 points; New York with 66 points; and Maine with 60 points.

Domestic minor sex trafficking is a federal crime under the Trafficking Protection Act, which defines those in violation of the law as anyone who “recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means” a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

When considering the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking, under the TVPA, the victim’s age is the critical issue — there is no requirement to prove that force, fraud, or coercion was used to secure the victim’s actions if the victim is a minor.

Great diversity exists among the states on the treatment of children who have been exploited. “Safe harbor” laws in 23 states and the District of Columbia prohibit prostitution charges against minors, but not all protect them from arrest, detention, interrogation, harmful investigative practices and, ultimately, proving they were victimized.

As a result “not all Safe Harbor laws are necessarily safe for all exploited youth,” Shared Hope International said in its report. “Although nearly half the states in the nation have enacted non-criminalization laws, 12 of those states’ laws specifically contemplate detaining or arresting a minor for prostitution.”

Additionally:

  • Five states solely require a finding of trafficking victimization to prevent the criminalization of the minor for prostitution offenses, suggesting that some minors engage in commercial sex acts out of choice.
  • Eight states and the District of Columbia couple non-criminalization laws with statutory avenues to specialized services.
  • Only four states — California, Connecticut, Florida and Minnesota — have enacted non-criminalization laws that are designed to prevent the arrest and detention, as well as prosecution, of minors for prostitution offenses in addition to connecting child sex trafficking victims with holistic, specialized care and services.

“Developing and enacting comprehensive non-criminalization laws requires a multi-year and multi-agency commitment, inclusive of input, buy-in, and contribution from a variety of stakeholders,” Shared Hope International said. “Importantly, through expansive training and cultural changes, states should simultaneously seek policy, practice, and culture reform, ultimately shifting away from viewing and responding to commercially sexually exploited children as delinquent youth rather than as survivors of child sex trafficking.”

Read more about the problem here.

Patch Editor Beth Dalbey contributed.

Photo via Shutterstock

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