County leadership in Los Angeles today passed a motion aimed at increasing protections for victims of child sex trafficking while also decreasing the stigma associated with this form of child abuse.
A motion approved today by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declares that in the eyes of the county:
“There is no such thing as a ‘child prostitute’ and that commercially sexually exploited children should not be treated as anything other than victims of child sex abuse.”
The motion builds upon a foundation laid in 2013 when the county began shifting away from arrest and detention of minors picked up for sex trafficking by implementing a new law enforcement first responder protocol.
The protocol was developed to help officers identify victims of child sex trafficking and to approach these often traumatized young people with the goal of building a relationship and getting them into a stable environment rather than charging them with a crime and detaining them in a jail-like setting. It was initially piloted in the communities of Compton and Long Beach.
Today’s motion “encourages” law enforcement to divert child sex victims away from facilities used for criminal or juvenile offenders. It also “encourages” but does not mandate all county law enforcement agencies to implement the first responder protocol when working with victims of child sex trafficking.
The more concrete directives in the motion will provide greater protections for witnesses of child sex trafficking. Minors over the age of 13 will be permitted to testify via closed-circuit television, away from the defendant and jury.
Each minor witness of child sex trafficking will be connected with an advocate who can help them access the benefits and services provided to witnesses. The motion also asks that the advocate, prosecutor and law enforcement collaborate to create a safety plan for the minor witness.
Coinciding with the supervisors’ efforts in Los Angeles County is a panel discussion with county leadership and advocates as part of Rights4Girls #NoSuchThing campaign on October 21 at the Hall of Justice in downtown L.A. Rights4Girls also recently circulated a petition to pressure the Associated Press to discontinue its use of the term “child prostitute.”
The petition has 90,000 supporters so far and has been publicly supported by celebrities such as Sean Combs and Julianne Moore.