Sunday, March 22 2015
You may have heard about the Justice for Human Trafficking 2015 bill this week. The bill caught media attention because there are abortion limitations listed in certain subsections of the bill. Those sections are technical and political – and not the subject of this blog!
Instead, I want to talk about the wisdom of limiting services to minors. On the surface, this seems reasonable, considering the legislation is designed to address the trafficking of minors. However, the reality is, we are very early in our fight to remedy this problem – leaving many in the unfortunate position of graduating out of service eligibility, just when they are in a position to advocate for themselves. We know that women that were commercially sexually exploited as children are more likely to have run away from home, been involved in a wider range of prostitution activities, have greater health problems as adults, and are less likely to have graduated high school. Given this, primary prevention certainly seems to be a pressing, and rarely discussed, issue. Second to that, flexible services make sense. Legislation can be written that benefit survivors up to the age of 24, which is consistent with how we now support transition-aged foster youth. We’ve already learned that ending services at 18 equals failure. Or, services can be available to any woman that was first exploited as a minor. We know the average age for entry into prostitution is 12 – 14 years of age. Turning 18 doesn’t erase the pain or damage. It doesn’t change the fact that there may be unmet health or mental health needs, and it certainly doesn’t make housing materialize. In fact, it can make things worse. By the time women are young adults, they may have children of their own. Drug use may have escalated to addiction. There may be legal problems. If a 19, 20, or 22 year old wants help - it should be available. Rachel Moran, survivor and author, puts it this way,
“They bother me, these stupid irrelevant lines that are drawn that attempt to divide the lived reality of the prostitution experience based on whether a female is fifteen or seventeen, seventeen or nineteen, eighteen or twenty. They are diversions to the central matter at hand; they divert from the core issue. They disappear the fact that this is wrong, not only by degrees that deepen with the youthfulness of its target, but by its nature, so that all those who’ve been paid for sex they do not want have suffered sexual abuse. There is a shelf-life for women in prostitution, but there is no shelf-life for the nature of prostitution. Its abusive core does not morph into something else on a person’s eighteenth birthday. Not that many men wait that long in the first place.”
It bothers me, too.