Kids Not Criminals--Pass Safe Harbor Laws
  • Petitioned State Lawmakers

This petition was delivered to:

State Lawmakers

Kids Not Criminals--Pass Safe Harbor Laws

    1. Petition by


December 2013


Polaris Project: Since we launched this petition last January, 7 states have passed strong Safe Harbor laws. There is still work to do, but this was significant progress.

Tracey’s life changed forever on a walk to the corner store. She was 15 and trying to get a few minutes of peace away from her abusive home.

A guy she knew from around the neighborhood pulled up next to her and asked if she was ok. He offered her a ride and listened to her talk about how much she wanted a new life. After a few months of “courtship,” Jay began to get abusive and forced her to engage in commercial sex. When she wanted to stop, he and his friends beat and raped her.

Before long, even though Tracey was a victim of child sex trafficking, the local police arrested Tracey for prostitution and placed her in juvenile detention. Tracey’s future dimmed. She was getting punished for an act that she couldn’t even legally consent to. She was a kid who needed help and support, but she was being treated like a criminal.

I’m Director of Client Services for Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to ending human trafficking. Tracey’s story is the story of girls I work with every day. Tracey is a kid, not a criminal. She didn’t deserve to be locked up.

There are better policy approaches and better options, ones that literally save the lives of children and teens.

Safe Harbor laws are that better option. These laws define these sexually exploited children as victims of abuse, help them find protection and support, and grant them immunity from prosecution for prostitution while they are under 18 years of age.

Safe Harbor laws also can increase funding for specialized services like long-term housing, mental health care, educational support, and job training to help these children recover. Thirty-nine states lack these basic Safe Harbor protections – including Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, and Louisiana. Every state can do more to increase services for child victims of sex trafficking.

According to national estimates, there are 100,000 children in the commercial sex trade in the United States. Safe Harbor laws help all of these children get the care they so desperately need.

Polaris Project is trying to make 2013 the last year a 15-year-old can be tossed into jail and treated like a criminal despite being a victim of commercial sexual exploitation.

I cannot believe these laws have not been passed in every state. I cannot believe any lawmaker—any person—would look at an abused 15-year-old and think: jail. We must do better. Your signature tells your state legislators that you support these kids and support Safe Harbor laws to protect them. Thank you.


Carolina De Los Rios, PhD
Director of Client Services
Polaris Project

*Tracey’s story is the story of the 100,000 kids who are hurt by commercial sexual exploitation. To protect our clients, we’ve woven together a few of their stories.

Recent signatures


    1. Reached 15,000 signatures
    2. Success!

      by Polaris

      With a strong Safe Harbor law passed in WY and more in the pipeline in other states, we wanted to say *thank you* to everyone who's signed this petition and shared it with your friends. We're adjusting our goal to 25k and are excited to keep up the fight. Please email info [at] with any questions about our work or this campaign.

    3. 10k reached! Thank you to everyone!

      by Polaris

      Thank you so much to everyone who has signed, shared and felt the need for these vital laws. We've been so touched by your comments.

      When we go to advocate for Safe Harbor laws in a state, as we've done in 4 states since this petition began, our Online Outreach Specialist creates a document to hand to state lawmakers with the signatures of advocates in that state, and their comments (we remove personal information from the comments to preserve your privacy).

      Whether it's the 707 signers in TX or the 71 in AR, we've found state legislators are impressed by your passion, the diversity of reasons you care about this issue, and your willingness to get engaged. Thank you and let's keep fighting for a world where child survivors are treated as kids, not criminals.

    4. Reached 10,000 signatures
    5. "Why is this important to you?" The first 1000 answers.

      by Polaris

      We mapped the first 1000 answers to the question above, "Why is this important to you?" You can explore that map here:

      From 1st comment (Heather, St Louis: "There is 27 million reason for this not to be unimportant.") to the 999th (Andrea, Germantown: "To stop human trafficking, that simple"), it's clear: Safe Harbor laws need to be passed.

      State Lawmakers: Kids Not Criminals--Pass Safe Harbor Laws

      Tracey's life changed forever on a walk to the corner store. She was 15 and trying to get a few minutes of peace away from her abusive home. A guy...

    6. Reached 5,000 signatures
    7. Birmingham: 17. Grand Forks: 17. Springfield: 14. Fort Lauderdale: 12 - 16

      by Polaris

      It has been a joy to see such a strong response in this petition's first week. But we were reminded today why we need it: 4 stories of children being commercially sexually exploited, published since this petition went up:

      A Georgia man accused of sex trafficking a 17 year old young woman, who has been sold and resold since she was 12:

      A man accused of selling a 17 year old for sex in Grand Forks, North Dakota rejects a plea dea:

      A young woman from Springfield, Missouri who was first sold at 14, survivors sexual abuse from her father, speaks out about her experience:

      A man who "claims he was a father figure attempting to help troubled girls," was sentenced in Florida for selling kids 12 - 16 for sex:

      These stories are about traffickers and abusers being brought to justice, but the justice needs to be brought to their victims as well. That's what Safe Harbor laws could do. We’ve got work to do.

    8. Reached 3,000 signatures
    9. 1000 signatures in under 5 days. You all rock.

      by Polaris

      Thank you to everyone who has signed and thank you again to everyone who shared this petition with their circles. You've made an impact on this issue and an impact in our hearts.

      The state legislative sessions are starting soon (wondering when yours starts? Check out this neat chart: and we will be walking your signatures and your comments into the offices of representatives from around the country--from Texas to Pennsylvania, from Arkansas to Louisiana--we will try to represent how important this issue is to you and to the survivors we serve and support.

      Thank you again, and watch this space for more updates in the coming months.

    10. Reached 1,000 signatures
    11. Thank you so much.

      by Polaris

      Wow. Just over 3 days after we posted this we've exceeded 10% of our goal. Your response has been incredible and we're honored to read your passion for ending modern slavery and protecting child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

      But we have a bit more to ask of you. With your help, we think we could reach 100,000 signatures. *That is one signature for every child being commercially sexually exploited*. 100,000 for 100,000. We want to show state lawmakers that Safe Harbor laws are necessary, are vital to righting this indescribable wrong.

      Can you tell one friend about this petition? Just one. Tell them about girls and boys like Tracey; about the injustice that exists in the 39 states without Safe Harbor laws; and that there is something they can do, right now, today, to help end it.

      Thank you for signing and helping us fight for a free future.

    12. Reached 500 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Natasha Thorsen SANTA ROSA, CA
      • 10 months ago

      people make the joke first world problems but some of the problems we have in the first world are just as bad as the third world. This is serious and needs to be brought to peoples attention.

    • Jamie Lehman BAILEY, CO
      • 10 months ago

      Treating child sex slaves as criminals rather than victims only serves to retraumatize them and exacerbate their terror. We need more safe houses offering therapeutic, medical, spiritual, social, educational, and vocational services to help these kiddos heal and build a life of hope and prosperity.

    • Larry Lundy EVANSTON, IL
      • 10 months ago

      Let's make the world a safer place . . .

    • John Lee REDDING, CA
      • 10 months ago

      I am a seminary student, and I want to help these victims.

    • Kimi Katou Natsumi Mieko SETAGAYA-KU, TOKY, JAPAN
      • 11 months ago

      To make an awareness. and to help stop Human Trafficking. as well as support Immigrants whom were human trafficked in.


    Develop your own tools to win.

    Use the API to develop your own organizing tools. Find out how to get started.