Child Sex Trafficking

6 Things You Should Know About State Sex Trafficking Laws

By October 15, 2014 No Comments

The 2014 State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws were recently published in a report by the Polaris Project, one of our partners in the fight against sexual exploitation.

We, at Thorn, took a look at the report, which has been produced annually since 2011, and are happy to report that it shows a positive trend, meaning that states’ sex trafficking laws are getting more comprehensive, as well as their ability to respond to sex-trafficking related crimes.

To celebrate the positive trend in sex trafficking laws, we’ve decided to share six key takeaways from Polaris’ study.

1 – There are Twelve Categories for Rating State Sex Trafficking Laws

Polaris’ basic rating of states’ adequacy included the following 10 categories:

  1. Sex Trafficking
  2. Labor Trafficking
  3. Seizing Assets Acquired from Human Trafficking
  4. Training on Human Trafficking for Law Enforcement
  5. Lower burden of proof for sex trafficking of minors (making it easier to prosecute traffickers for the sex trafficking of a minor
  6. Posting a Human Trafficking Hotline
  7. Safe Harbor – Protecting Sexually Exploited Minors
  8. Victim Assistance
  9. Access to Civil Damages (giving the victims of human trafficking the ability to seek civil damages from their traffickers)
  10. Vacating Convictions for Sex Trafficking Victims

The State Ratings also included two bonus categories:

  1. Investigative tools for law enforcement
  2. Human Trafficking Commission or Task Force

2 – The Number of Worst-Rated States Dropped to Zero

The 2014 State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws rated states according to Tiers; Tier 4 includes states with the smallest number of human trafficking laws, while Tier 1 includes states with the most comprehensive human trafficking laws. One of the biggest wins from this year’s study was that the number of states rated Tier 4 dropped to zero. As you can see in the graphics below, in 2011, there were nine Tier 4-rated states. Tier 4 states have “very poor human trafficking laws” and are rated adequate in 2 categories or fewer.

polaris state rankings on human trafficking laws 2011polaris state ratings on human trafficking laws 2014

3 – 39 States Scored Ten out of a Possible Twelve Points

As of July 31, 2014, Polaris had rated 39 states with ten out of a possible twelve points – putting them in the Tier 1 category, meaning that they had “very good human trafficking laws.” The number of Tier 1 states in 2014 (39) is up from 32 states in 2013 and 11 states in 2011. The 350% increase in Tier 1 ratings over three years is a huge win for both law enforcement agencies and legislative bodies nationwide. We’re excited to see a shift in these numbers, indicating that states are beginning to pay attention to this important issue.

4 – Delaware, New Jersey and Washington Had Perfect Ratings

Three states were given one point for each of the twelve categories; Delaware, New Jersey and Washington. This meant that each state had scored points for the two bonus categories; investigative tools for law enforcement, and law enforcement training on human trafficking. Three more states were given more than 10 points; each Arkansas, Connecticut and Florida.

5 – The Study Ranked Victim Assistance Laws

The 2014 State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws also assessed victim assistance laws. While this data correlated with the states’ ratings of human trafficking laws, Polaris found that the majority of states were lacking behind in their victim assistance laws. These laws provide services and protection including the following:

  • Counseling
  • Job Assistance
  • Housing
  • Continuing Education
  • Legal Services

The study rated 12 states as Tier 1, and 12 states as Tier 4. The results of the study can be seen in the graphic below.

human trafficking victim assistance state laws

6 – A Big Win for Prosecuting Child Sex Traffickers

We’re happy to say that Polaris’ State Ratings show significant improvement on human trafficking, specifically child trafficking laws. Only 5 states did not have statutes specifying a lower burden of proof for sex trafficking of minors. This means that 45 states have made it easier to prosecute a sex trafficking criminal who has been arrested for trafficking a child.

We are encouraged by the progress that has been made and will continue to work with our partners at Polaris and across the country to continue to advance laws and policies that prevent human trafficking and assist and protect victims.

You can see the full results here. Subscribe to our newsletter for monthly news on the fight against child sex trafficking, or follow us on social media to stay up to date on the latest news.