Minor sex trafficking is a concern in every state, and Shared Hope International is moving to the next stage of efforts to hold states accountable for their efforts to serve victims and make sure justice prevails over perpetrators.

Since 2010, Shared Hope International has been grading states on the fabric of laws that address child sex trafficking through the Protected Innocence Challenge. As a result of this effort, progress has been made.

The 2020 report, released Wednesday, reads, “The Protected Innocence Challenge project was Shared Hope’s vision for mobilizing collective state action to ensure national change. Ten years of grassroots mobilization, advocacy, technical assistance, and consistent collaboration has allowed this vision to become reality. All states now have a child sex trafficking law and collectively, the country has made exciting progress to provide imperative protections and access to specialized services for child survivors.”

The framework for the report cards was released in 2010, with the first state report cards issued in 2011. At that time, only five states prohibited criminalization of sex trafficking victims for prostitution offenses, in 2019 that number had increased to 30 states (plus the District of Columbia).

Pennsylvania is one of 12 states that improved 3 grade levels from 2011 to 2019. In 2019, Pennsylvania received a B, with the following points and the total points available for the category:

— Criminalization of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking 10/10

— Criminal Provisions Addressing Demand 19.5/25

— Criminal Provisions for Traffickers 15/15

— Criminal Provisions for Facilitators 7/10

— Protective Provisions for Child Victims 19/27.5

— Criminal Justice Tools for investigation and prosecution 15/15.

The national average improved in that time frame from an F (59.1%) in 2011 to a B (84.7%) in 2019. Highlights of that time frame include 2015, when the majority of states received a grade of B or higher, 2017, when the states with an A outnumbered the states with a D for the first time and 2018, when two-thirds of the states have an A or B grade for their legal measures to protect victims of minor sex trafficking.

Still, gaps remain, according to Shared Hope International.

On Wednesday, they introduced the Child & Youth Sex Trafficking Advanced Legislative Framework, which will allow progress to continue to build.

Wednesday’s report notes “The Report Cards on Child & Youth Sex Trafficking Legislative Framework will build on the original Protected Innocence Challenge Framework, preserving the most fundamental components while including new policy priorities that reflect feedback and research from the field. Specifically, this advanced legislative framework focuses largely on victim protection laws, including policies pertaining to specialized service responses and access to justice. Comprehensive and accessible victim protections are, undoubtedly, the most crucial components of a strong response to child sex trafficking and, yet, as a nation we continue to fall behind.”

The six key issue areas are: criminal provisions; identification of and response to victims; continuum of care; access to justice for trafficking survivors; tools for a victim-centered criminal justice response and prevention and training.

The first report cards will be issued in 2021.

The full report can be viewed by visiting https://sharedhope.org.

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