What are the kids in your life worried about right now? Is your grandson talking about what to dress up as for Halloween? Is your niece worried about her math test? Is your son anxious about an upcoming football game?
Now imagine a child who has become the victim of sex trafficking. They are worried about being sexually abused again. They are worried about retaliation from their trafficker. And, in Pennsylvania, they also have to be worried about being criminally charged under the current law.
Senate Bill 851, sponsored by Senator Greenleaf, aims to end this cycle of re-victimization by protecting instead of prosecuting child victims of sex trafficking. This legislation is an example of victim-centered criminal justice reform that would ensure children aren’t charged with prostitution.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) attended a rally today in support of Senate Bill 851. PCC’s Director of Social Concerns, Francis Viglietta, said, “Legislation like Senate Bill 851 is needed because it gives immunity to these children, who need compassion and resources to get out of this form of modern day slavery, instead of a criminal record. We encourage the legislature to pass this legislation this session or as soon as possible next session.”
Thirty-five other states have already passed this type of safe harbor legislation. Now is the time for Pennsylvania to provide support to some of our most vulnerable citizens and provide safe harbor to these childhood victims of sex trafficking.