Why Are Child Sex Trafficking Victims Being Arrested?

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Child SlaveryHuman Trafficking

Last month a judge in Kansas made national headlines for erroneously claiming that two girls — just 13 and 14-years-old — were “aggressors” in a case where a 67-year-old man paid them to have sex.

“So, she’s uncomfortable for something that she voluntarily went to, voluntarily took her top off for, and was paid for?” said Kansas Judge Michael Gibbens.

“I wonder, what kind of trauma there really was to this victim under those peculiar circumstances?”

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The public responded with outrage, but the issue of children who are victims of sex trafficking being charged for prostitution and minor crimes they were forced to commit is nothing new.

Writing in a piece for Wichita State University, Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm from the Center for Combating Human Trafficking, Wichita State University and Linda Smith from Shared Hope International explain:

As a society, we must ask, why did money sanitize what, in any other circumstance, would be considered child rape? And more concerning, how did the exchange of money shift the narrative so dramatically so as to characterize children as aggressors in the crime of which they were victims?

The answers lie in the paradox in which victims of child sex trafficking are legally apprehended and consequently, socially stigmatized.  Twenty-five states, including Kansas, still allow commercially sexually exploited minors to be charged and prosecuted for prostitution and human trafficking offenses despite federal and state laws that recognize these same minors as victims of child sex trafficking.

This paradox still exists despite an increase in awareness, and specific laws to protect children from such offenses over the last couple of decades.

Criminalizing youth who have experienced the horrors of commercial sexual exploitation, and oftentimes survived traumatic experiences that predate the exploitation, is not only the gravest of injustices but also prevents survivors from receiving critical services and ongoing, specialized care.

Notably, the age of consent in Kansas is 16, meaning sexual contact between an adult and the minors in this case was not consensual. Still, comments on social media surrounding this case tried to place blame on these two girls, calling them “delinquent,” “out of control,” “promiscuous,” and “prostitutes.”

As Countryman-Roswurm and Smith write, “as Kansans we must ask ourselves: How do we really view individuals who have been victimized by and survived human trafficking? If we truly care, how do we shift our culture to recognize all survivors of sexual violence, including child sex trafficking, as unequivocally blameless in the conduct that constitutes their very victimization?”

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Jennifer
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Jennifer

This judge should lose his job and any chance to work in law now or ever.

John
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John

Disgusting example of making the victims out to be the criminals. Where was the pimp? Why are they walking away free?

Ruth wells Wells
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Ruth wells Wells

This judge is in on having sex with a child. This why he has these ideas. All people in all walks of life is involved with white slavery of the world. I wish all the population of the world would understand this problem better.

Bess Chakravarty
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Bess Chakravarty

Children are victims…..even if the law criminalizes their behavior. The woeful truth for homeless kids is that most have been abused at home for years. Sell yourself for bread is NOT prostitution. It is survival. Even more for those who are formally trafficked, their entire ‘value’ is as sexual toys for others to play with. Most of them believe that they are not entitled to the space they take up in a room or the air that they breath.

robert carr
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robert carr

These girls were not homeless and were not trafficked. Their home life was not normal but no one talked of them being abused. I am not saying they were bad or venal. Their older sister who set this up would have been guilty of facilitation had she not been a minor as well.

Richard Clark
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Richard Clark

Sexual activity with a child below the age of consent is unlawful. The fact money changed hands is irrelevant. The 67 year old male should have been charged with the relevant crimes, incarcerated and placed on the sexual offenders register with all the attendant publicity.
The girls should have been offered all available assistance to recover from these crimes against them,