The Society for the
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SPSSI Policy News RSS Feed - October 31, 2008

By Christopher Woodside

Event Recap/New Legislation

House Hearing Draws Attention to Disturbing Issue of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in America

Recently, SPSSI Policy Coordinator Chris Woodside attended a Capitol Hill briefing on the sexual exploitation and trafficking of young girls in America. Entitled “Girls for Sale: The Truth about Commercial Sexual Exploitation in the United States,” the briefing was co-sponsored by the YWCA USA and Women’s Policy, Inc.

The briefing was also held in cooperation with House members Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-47) and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL-5), co-chairs, Violence Against Women Task Force, Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, and Representatives Thelma Drake (R-VA-2), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14), and Deborah Pryce (R-OH-15), co-chairs, Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking.

Representative Carolyn Maloney lead the discussion and focused her efforts on articulating the desperate need to create more safe houses and transitional living facilities for victims in need, as well as to increase efforts to better educate men as to the immense personal and societal devastation caused by the sexual exploitation of young girls.

Speakers at the briefing described the current situation in brutal detail: American girls as young as 10 years of age being coerced and lured into prostitution as a result of desperation, poverty or manipulation by adults. Experts spoke of young girls of who had wound up in particularly vulnerable situations (runaways, survivors of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse, having a mental illness or developmental disability, or suffering from abuse of drugs and alcohol).

They identified the total number of children thought to be at-risk for sexual exploitation as somewhere between 200,000 - 300,000. Much attention was focused on reminding attendees that the sexual exploitation and commercial trafficking of young people is not a problem confined to developing countries, and is, in fact, going on each and every day on American soil, as well.

Guest speakers at the briefing included: Lois Lee, founder and president of Children of the Night in Los Angeles; Rachel Lloyd, founder and executive director of Girls Education and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in New York City; and Shaquana Blount, a survivor and outreach worker for Girls Education and Mentoring Services.

For more information on this issue, read the YWCA's 2008 Trafficking in Women Fact Sheet and the Commercial Exploitation of Children published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007.

Representative Carolyn Maloney has introduced legislation in the House that aims to crack down on the primary purveyors of sex trafficking (pimps and johns) by going after their wallets.  The legislation would authorize $2 million in funds in order to establish an office within the IRS to prosecute traffickers for violations of tax laws.

In summary, the proposed new IRS office would coordinate closely with existing sex trafficking task forces in the Department of Justice.  Representative Maloney’s bill would permit this new unit to keep the criminal fines it collects from traffickers, and would impose increased penalties, including fines of up to $50,000 and jail sentences of up to ten years, for traffickers who fail to file returns, supply information, or pay taxes. Additionally, the provision would establish a new felony offense for an “aggravated failure to file” in cases where income or payments are derived from criminal activities. The legislation would also designate the victims of criminal sex traffickers as whistleblowers, allowing them to collect up to 15% of the fines levied against their abusers.

SPSSI will be keeping a watchful eye on this bill when Congress returns to session after the November elections. To view full text of the legislation, please visit:

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                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin