The U.S. Department of the State estimates that roughly 12.3 million people around the world are sold into human trafficking every year, more than half of whom are children. According to Shared Hope International, the average age of American minors who are in the sex trade are between 12 and 14 years old. As a sex crime defense attorney Minnesota would know, the state treats youth who are trafficked as victims, not criminals, which is a practice that is expected to expand across the country. Further, people who are charged with sex trafficking can expect to face harsher consequences.
Providing a safe harbor
Under Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Law, youth who are sexually exploited are not criminalized and are instead offered shelter, housing and other support services. The Minnesota Department of Health defines a youth who has been sexually exploited as anyone younger than 18 who has engaged in the following
- Exotic dancing
- Getting filmed while performing sexual acts
- Sexual conduct in return for a place to stay, money, food or clothing
- Trading sexual acts for drugs
The state’s Department of Health also states that anyone younger than 18 who has been convicted of prostitution or related crimes will be granted safe harbor.
Battling the effects of trafficking
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that the effects of sexual exploitation can be destructive, causing lifelong health problems among young victims. Many will develop sleeping or eating disorders along with sexually transmitted diseases. As a sex crime defense attorney in Minnesota may have seen, some child victims are malnourished to the point of having rotted teeth or never reaching their full height. Mentally, victims may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, fear, anxiety, depression and guilt.
The Minnesota Safe Harbor Law was created to give victims resources to start recovering from the trauma of sexual exploitation. According to the Mankato Free Press, the state is just one of two that has assigned significant funding to help the rehabilitative process. Minnesota allocated an initial $2.8 million to provide support systems, which was upped to $5 million recently. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., is even using Minnesota as a shining example of how victims of sex trafficking should be treated.
Penalties for sexual exploitation
Under the Safe Harbor Law, people who are convicted of a commercial sex offense such as trafficking now face more serious penalties. Part of the law imposes heftier fines, which are used to fund services for victims as well as pay prosecutors and law enforcement for the role they play.
Anyone with questions regarding Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Law should consult with a sex crime defense attorney in Minnesota.