What happened to rescued teen victims of sex-trafficking? At least one is jailed for prostitution

Criminal Justice

What happened to rescued teen victims of sex-trafficking? At least one is jailed for prostitution

Aug 16, 2013, 02:41 pm CDT

The FBI recently touted its rescue of 105 sexually exploited children in a July operation that resulted in the arrests of 159 alleged pimps.

Ron Hosko, the assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, told the New York Times in July that the teens who worked as prostitutes wouldn’t be charged. But his assertion didn’t prove true when a 17-year-old Pennsylvania teen was charged with prostitution and placed in a Bucks County juvenile detention facility, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The Inquirer story quotes the explanation offered last week by Bensalem Township Public Safety Director Fred Harran. “Can we treat her as a 100 percent victim right now?” he said. “I can’t say that until an investigation is done.”

The FBI told the Inquirer that a breakdown on what happened to the rescued children is not available. Jason Pack, who works in the FBI’s Washington, D.C., office, said that “in rare cases, detaining some kids may be the best option to protect them, although it falls far short of ideal.” He also said that FBI victim specialists try to find help for the teens, but “the infrastructure to support the range of services just isn’t there in many places.”

The ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates has taken stands to help combat sex trafficking. In August, the ABA House supported a uniform law that can be adopted by the states. It contains comprehensive criminal provisions for both sex-trafficking and forced-labor trafficking, as well as provisions for victim services and remedies.

One provision in the uniform law would protect minor victims who are human trafficking victims from criminal liability for prostitution. It would also permit adult trafficking victims charged with prostitution to assert an affirmative defense of being a victim, according to a report summarizing the provisions that is available here. Immediate-past ABA President Laurel Bellows had focused on the “scourge” of human trafficking during her year in office.

One bill introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature would toughen penalties for trafficking and specify that the prohibited conduct includes sex- as well as labor trafficking. Another bill would establish a presumption that trafficking victims age 17 or younger should be diverted to child protection agencies and support programs rather than prosecuted.

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