Child Prostitutes or Sexually Exploited Minors

The Deciding Debate in Determining How Best to Respond to Those Who Commit Crimes as a Result of their Victimhood

Diversion laws are not a formidable solution for dealing with minors forced into prostitution. Diversion laws represent similar ideas that traffickers engrain in their victims—that they are criminals who are not worth saving but rather, worth punishing. It exposes them to the juvenile justice system, albeit in a more sheltered way with essentially the same effect. While some states have enacted safe-harbor laws and others are contemplating doing so, there is an underlying controversy regarding what the key components of a human trafficking safe-harbor law should be. This Note argues that diversion programs and affirmative-defense provisions are not key components. Instead, they are harmful and other methods of achieving the policy behind those provisions exist. The most helpful and essential component of state safe-harbor laws is immunity from prosecution for prostitution because it will (1) aid prosecutors in gaining evidence to bring the true criminals to justice, and (2) aid the victims in recovering from the psychological and physical trauma they were subject to by human traffickers. Conditioning treatment and rehabilitative services upon cooperation does not aid prosecutors, rather, it hinders their ability to provide a credible witness to the stand. It also harms the victims because it reinitiates the cycle of abuse by identifying them with the trafficker.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.