Assembly and Senate Committees Advance “Safe Harbor Legislation” to Protect Victims of Child Sexual Exploitation
Now for some much needed good news on the state policy front!
Last week, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety passed important legislation that would ensure that a person under the age of 18 could not be prosecuted for committing an act of prostitution. This is an important step to improving Wisconsin’s approach to child sexual exploitation and human trafficking, as it reflects the widely held belief that criminally charging minors exploited by sex trafficking and child prostitution is not only immoral, but also does nothing to address the dynamics that make such children vulnerable to further victimization.
The bill, SB 344/AB 186, would help bring Wisconsin law in line with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which treats prostituted minors as victims of sexual exploitation instead of as juvenile delinquents, and would also align Wisconsin with the wide consensus of advocacy groups that believe exploited children should always be treated as victims. Laws similar to SB 344/AB 186 have been enacted in a majority of states, including Illinois, Minnesota, and California. These state laws are heralded as model legislation that many organizations with expertise on child sexual exploitation prevention believe Wisconsin should emulate.
The Assembly Committee on Children and Families already unanimously approved AB 186 in December. As a result, both SB 344 and AB 186 are available to be scheduled for floor votes in both the Senate and Assembly. With the legislative session quickly racing to an end, we hope that this important legislation receives the votes it deserves so that it can become law.
Sara Finger, Executive Director