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Child prostitutes: Are we treating victims as criminals?

Sex with a minor is considered a crime in all states, including Wisconsin. Federal law defines human trafficking as the prostitution of a child. However, in the United States there are only 11 states which have so-called "Safe Harbor laws" in effect that work to shield a child from being charged with a sex crime if they have engaged in sex for which money has changed hands.

Wisconsin is not one of the states which have adopted a Safe Harbor law to protect child prostitutes. This means that if a child is trafficked against his or her will in Wisconsin, then this child victim can also potentially be charged with a sex crime in Wisconsin. Unfortunately by prosecuting these children under this double standard, it may only serve to continue the cycle in which these children might begin to believe that they are in fact criminals as opposed to victims.

Instead, child prostitutes are abused, trafficked children. These children should be treated as victims of sexual abuse, rather than as criminals. Helping these children receive training, education and medical care so that the destructive cycle of prostitution can be stopped should be the number one priority.

Hopefully legislators will change the law in Wisconsin to enact a Safe Harbor law in order to prevent these children from being charged with crimes in the future.

In the meantime, any child who has been charged with the sex crime of prostitution should reach out for help to protect their rights through a criminal proceeding and beyond.

Source: The Washington Times, "Victim or criminal: The double standard of trafficked minors," Barbara Amaya, Sept. 21, 2012

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