I. Updating NY State Safe Harbor Law (2008) to treat sexually exploited children as victims, not criminals
ECPAT USA is supporting passing of a new legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA, Paulin/Lanza – A.2240/S.2135) that will bring NY State law in line with Federal law (TVPA) that establishes that all prostituted children are trafficking victims, by:
- acknowledging that children exploited in prostitution are victims - by removing the NY State’s requirement of coercion in prosecutions for the sex trafficking of children and bringing State Law in line with Federal Law (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) that recognizes all children under 18 years old are victims of exploitation;
- recognizing that buying children for sex is child abuse - currently an individual convicted of patronizing a minor for prostitution receives a lower penalty than one convicted of raping a minor of the same age; the bill would create the felony sex offense of ‘aggravated patronizing a minor ‘, aligning the penalties for patronizing with those for statutory rape of a child;
- improving victims access to social services – by expanding the group of people authorized to make referrals for social services to victims;
- increasing the penalties for traffickers - closing loopholes for exploiters and strengthening cases against traffickers;
- eliminating stigmatizing language – by replacing the term ‘prostitute’ with ‘person for prostitution’; this is the only instance in the Penal Code when a defendant is referred to by the crime allegedly committed; while everyone else is a defendant not a ‘robber’ or ‘murderer’, this language creates stigmatization and perpetuates trauma of trafficking victims, especially if they are under 18 years of age.
ECPAT USA supports passing of the TVPJA in the context of the NY State Anti-Trafficking Coalition (NYSATC), a group of over 50 advocacy organizations that have joined forces to increase public awareness, enact anti-trafficking laws, improve law enforcement response and increase social services to help women and girls escape trafficking. NYSATC helped drive the passage of two momentous laws in New York State: The New York Anti-Trafficking Law and the Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act.
ECPAT USA is a Steering Committee member of the NYSATC, together with Equality Now, inMotion, My Sister’s Place, Sanctuary For Families, GEMS; National Organization for Women, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.
ECPAT USA is in the process of preparing a communication strategy gathering public support for the passing of TVPJA.
What you can do:
- You can support ECPAT USA advocating for TVPJA, by adding your name to campaign letters, petitions of ECPAT USA, and being on our communication list;
- Support ECPAT USA fund raising for this project.
Photo: Assembly Member Amy Paulin, advocating for TVPJA in the NY State 2013 Legislature.
II. Supporting NY State juvenile justice system reform and ‘Raise the Age’ campaigns
New York is one of the last 2 states in the nation not having the age of criminal responsibility set at 18 years. Together with North Carolina, New York establishes that already at 16 years old, minors are criminally responsible under the law.
Despite a reputation for being one of the most progressive sates in the nation, New York is one of the last states that still treats all youths ages 16 and over as adults in its criminal justice system. Under NY law, upon reaching their 16th birthday, children are considered criminally responsible for their actions. While youth over the age of 7 and under 16 are handled in the juvenile justice system, in NY all 16- and 17-year olds become subjected to the same prosecution system, sentencing and corrections – as adults.
This is highly significant in light of the different approaches under the two different systems – rehabilitative (in the juvenile system), versus punitive (in the criminal adult system).
ECPAT USA applauds recent ‘Raise the Age’ legislative proposal S.4489 introduced by Sen. Nozzolio at the request of NY State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, that proposes transfer of jurisdiction for 16- and 17-years-olds accused of less serious crimes to family courts which are better equipped to provide access to social services, while continuing to prosecute the most juveniles as adults. 87 percent of the roughly 46,000 16- and 17-year-olds charged with crimes in 2010 were accused of nonviolent offenses. The proposal reflects consensus in many states that troubled teenagers have been mishandled in the adult court system which makes them more vulnerable to abuse and increases the recidivism.
From left to right: ECPAT USA Executive Director Carol Smolenski, NYS Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and ECPAT USA State Policy and Development Director Camelia Tepelus, PhD (April 17, 2013)
In the context of its NY Policy Project, ECPAT USA started recently reaching out and mapping juvenile justice advocacy organizations in NY state, in order to monitor the process of legislative developments increasing the age of protection of minors under NY law. We see this line of advocacy as complementing our promotion of improved Safe Harbor legislation to insure that cases of sexually exploited minors are pursued in a manner that secures comprehensive rehabilitation services, instead of criminal prosecution for prostitution charges in the adult criminal system.
If you would like to be added to our list of supporters advocating for protecting all minors under 18 years old in NY state and stay informed about our work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information see:
NY State Policy Project contact:
Camelia Tepelus, PhD, NY State Policy and Program Development Director, email@example.com.