ECPAT-USA’s Executive Director, Carol Smolenski makes her comments on whether victims testimonies are unavoidable in the prosecution of pimps and traffickers in our newest blog post:
One way to help child victims of sex trafficking is to prosecute traffickers without relying on the testimony of the victim. The mental and physical abuse that they have suffered at the hands of the exploiters is a huge burden for a young person. Often the criminal justice system relies on her testimony alone to make the case against the trafficker, compounding the burden she bears. While this is not always possible, prosecutors should make every effort to gather other types of evidence to prosecute traffickers without the young person being put through the ordeal of making or breaking the case by herself.
Recently, Lauren Hersh, the head of the Brooklyn D.A.’s office Sex Trafficking unit resigned over a young victim recanting some of her testimony http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/brooklyn-chief-sex-trafficking-prosecutor-
lauren-hersh-resigns-article-1.1084291. There may have been procedural problems with the case, http://www.jdjournal.com/2012/05/28/brooklyn-prosecutor-in-charge-of-sex-trafficking-prosecutions-resigns/, but it is worthwhile pointing out that given the abuse this young victim went through, asking her to carry the weight of the prosecution of this case on her young shoulders, might be too much. While a victims testimony may be the most compelling evidence in cases like this, it is imperative that we find other ways to prosecute traffickers and stop relying on the testimony of young traumatized children.
It is a terrible shame to lose Lauren Hersh from the DA’s office. She was an amazing advocate for the protection of these young horribly abused children and a great ally of ECPAT-USA. She will be very much missed as an outspoken protector of sexually exploited children.