Minneapolis (July 20, 2011) – The Advocates for Human Rights and The Family Partnership welcome today’s enactment of a new approach to protecting children from sexual exploitation. As part of the negotiated budget agreement, Governor Dayton today signed into law provisions which take significant steps toward building a victim-centered model for protecting children exploited through prostitution.
The measure, introduced earlier this year by a bi-partisan group of legislators, clarifies that sexually exploited children are crime victims, not criminals. "It took an unprecedented show of cooperation between service providers, advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, and survivors to make this happen. It also took a strong bi-partisan legislative effort in a highly divided session. We're tremendously excited to see everyone come together to protect commercially sexually exploited children in our state," says Jeff Bauer, Director of Public Policy for The Family Partnership.
The sexual exploitation of children is a problem of growing urgency. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conservatively estimates that 100,000 children are exploited each year for prostitution in the United States. The average age of a child lured into sexual exploitation is between 11 and 14 years. “While Minnesota’s best practices have moved away from prosecuting children exploited through prostitution,” says Robin Phillips, executive director of The Advocates for Human Rights, “until today Minnesota’s law has failed to keep up. We are extremely happy that, as of today, Minnesota law recognizes that these children are victims, not criminals.”
The innovative approach ensures that children exploited through prostitution will not be subject to criminal charges or delinquency proceedings and explicitly includes sexually exploited youth and juvenile sex trafficking victims within the definition of children in need of protection and services. The legislation also will help Minnesota take steps statewide to providing services for children who are victims of sexual exploitation.
More information about the legislation and about the issue of sexual exploitation of children can be found at www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/safe_harbors.html.