Federal Safe Harbor Legislation

The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, inspired by Minnesota’s groundbreaking Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act, seeks to encourage states to ensure that victims of human trafficking are not treated as criminals. Introduced as: S. 1733 / H.R. 3610

Sponsored by: Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL) and by Representatives Erik Paulsen (R-MN-3rd) and Gwen Moore (D-WI-4th).

The Need for Safe Harbor
Although many states and the federal government recognize the crime of human trafficking, laws continue to hold trafficking victims criminally responsible when they engage in prostitution. Trafficked children under age 18 continue to be adjudicated as “delinquents” for engaging in prostitution, too often subjecting them to detention rather than providing services to help them recover from trafficking.  

The Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act changed Minnesota’s approach to meeting the needs of trafficked children by recognizing that prostituted children are victims of trafficking, not criminal perpetrators. Safe Harbor excludes prostituted children from the definition of “delinquent child” to ensure they can not be held criminally accountable for engaging in prostitution. At the same time, Safe Harbor created a framework for a victim-centered, trauma-informed, culturally appropriate approach to meeting the needs of each individual child.

S. 1733 / H.R. 3610 – The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act          

Federal legislation seeks to promote state laws that treat trafficked youth as crime victims, not perpetrators, by:

  • Encouraging states to adopt legislation that treats minors who engage in or attempt to engage in a commercial sex act as a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons; discourages charging or prosecution of victims based on engaging or attempting to engage in a commercial sex act; and encourages the diversion of victims to child protection services.
  • Increasing the civil remedies equal that victims may seek from their perpetrators to treble damages.
  • Requiring data collection, analysis, and reporting relating to issuance and enforcement of mandatory restitution orders.
  • Ensuring funding for the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
  • Making trafficking victims eligible for Jobs Corps programs.
  • Establishing a national law enforcement strategy to combat human trafficking and enhances law enforcement coordination.
  • Elevating registration of persons convicted of sex trafficking offenses to Tier III sex offenders, up from Tier II.