At least 100,000 children are used in prostitution every year in the United States and the average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years old.
Oregon’s leaders have taken some important steps to address the problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children in our state, but too many children are still falling victim. Oregon's children are at great risk.
There is more we can do to protect Oregon's children. The recent release of the Protected Innocence Report Card by Shared Hope exposed some critical legislative gaps in Oregon law -- gaps that leave children vulnerable to traffickers and fail to provide the cornerstone of strong law to victim advocates, prosecutors and law enforcement so they can ensure protection for the victims and punishment for the criminals who exploit them.
The Report Card outlines several legislative gaps, the top four changes needed are:
-- Amend the state human trafficking law to align with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act by eliminating the requirement of force in cases of child sex trafficking.
-- Amend the sex offender registry law to require convicted traffickers and buyers of children to register as sex offenders.
-- Make buying or attempting to buy sex with a minor a separate crime from solicitation of an adult for prostitution and reference the trafficking in persons statute as the applicable crime and penalty. Currently, the law on solicitation of prostitution does not differentiate adults from a minor and is a misdemeanor – regardless of age.
-- Amend “rape shield” law to include the victim-witnesses of compelled prostitution or sex trafficking so they are not left unprotected from a re-traumatizing examination when they testify. As in other sexual offense cases, evidence of a victim's past sexual behavior should not be admissible.
Our state could be a "zero tolerance state" when it comes to child sex trafficking -- but only if our leaders make these critical legislative changes a priority. Write Oregon leaders right now and urge them to do all they can to prevent child sex trafficking and help child victims escape and heal.