Survivors of child sex trafficking need your help.
Instead of being treated as victims, children across the U.S. are being arrested for crimes they were forced to commit as a result of being trafficked.
But New Hampshire can change this injustice. By passing House Bill 189, the state can set an important national precedent for exempting child sex trafficking victims from criminal penalties for crimes they committed as a direct result of their victimization. The bill has already passed the House and is now being heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.1
New Hampshire’s legislative session ends on June 30, so now is the time to show your support before time runs out.
New Hampshire is already on the right track — it is one of 28 states that currently have legislation stating that children cannot be charged for prostitution and that there is no such thing as a child prostitute.
House Bill 189 would extend protections for survivors of child sex trafficking to prevent them from being charged for “any other misdemeanor or non-violent class B felony, where the conduct was committed as a direct result of being trafficked.”2
“It was an extremely brutal time,” said one survivor of child sex trafficking who testified in support of House Bill 189.
“It’s often being raped, beaten up, dropped on the side of the road, drugged, gagged, choked out – it’s a very traumatic experience.”3
While being trafficked, she was arrested on multiple charges, including theft. But she committed the acts as an expression of pain.
“The need to boost those neurochemicals and escape from my reality was a big part of that,” she explained.
“It was a very hard life. You’re a victim and you’re treated like a criminal.”
Even though New Hampshire does not charge child sex trafficking victims for prostitution, many victims still carry criminal records for acts that their trafficker made them commit. These records follow children the rest of their lives, presenting barriers to obtaining safe and stable housing and employment.
Sara Hennessey, a state police sergeant with the Department of Safety, which is endorsing the bill, put it simply — this is about survival.
“They’re children – they’re being controlled by their traffickers,” she said.
“This isn’t a normal situation, it’s about a power control situation. The children who are in these circumstances are doing things to survive, maybe it’s something as simple as getting food to eat, or basic needs met.”