Legalized Child Prostitution
When it hit the national news that California had legalized child prostitution, many people across the country must’ve thought, “It’s Official! Those Californians have lost their minds.” On the surface, it sounds as though California has reached a new low for cultural acceptance of debauchery. SB1322 was unfortunately named and consequently, misunderstood. The reality is that the law is good for children.
To clarify CA Senator Holly J. Mitchell’s SB 1322 , it is illegal in California to purchase or sell a child. It is illegal in California to buy or sell sex with a child. The purpose of California’s Senate Bill 1322 was to decriminalize prostitution for the child victim. No child under the age of 18 is to be arrested and incarcerated for being the subject of sale in the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Instead, any child involved in a trafficking bust is to be treated like the victim he or she is. This treatment makes him or her eligible for services. An important aspect of this law is the intent of minimizing the re-traumatization of the child(ren) involved.
Opponents of this law say that CSEC victims often decline services, and that by arresting them and putting them behind bars, they are safe from their trafficker and they receive mandatory services. Proponents of the law say that arresting and incarcerating children further traumatizes them and feeds right into the brainwashing of the trafficker that law enforcement is not to be trusted. Proponents say that when children are treated like victims being rescued rather than criminals being arrested, they are far more likely to receive and benefit from services provided. Proponents believe that forcing services on children who are being treated like criminals is like trying to plant a garden in dry hardened soil—it just doesn’t work.
Minnesota enacted a similar “safe harbor” law in 2011. The results strongly suggest that the proponents of the California law are correct. In 2010, before the law was enacted, 14 traffickers were prosecuted. In 2013, after the law had been in place for two years, 63 traffickers were convicted for selling children for sex. It was found after the passage of the MN law that rescued victims were far more likely to testify against their pimp than previously had been the case. The services and support provided to rescued victims seems to have empowered rescued victims with the courage to face their pimps in court and to withstand hours, sometimes days, of cross examination by the trafficker’s defense lawyers.
Orange County Juvenile Court Judge, Douglas J. Hatchimonji, said, “SB 1322 is not a solution, but rather, is a small step in the direction toward solution of CSEC. Getting children out of ‘the life’ requires services, housing, counseling, mental and physical health services, job training, and significant dedication of these resources over a long span of time.”
It’s interesting to note that Judge Hatchimonji refers to CSEC victims under the age of 18 as “children.” When asked by Dr. Sandie Morgan, Director of Vanguard University’s Global Center For Women and Justice, why he refers, even to adolescents who vehemently assert that they chose ‘the life,’ Judge Hatchimonji responded that, “the word, ‘child’ implies a sense of vulnerability requiring care, attention, and protection.” The judge went on to explain that by law, children cannot consent to sexual acts. Nor can they enter into contracts, including the implied contract involved in the exchange of sex for money. He went on to say that science tells us that the adolescent brain is not fully developed; that although the brain may intellectually understand a complicated subject, the part of the brain that controls impulse is not yet fully developed. Therefore, when we ask a child why he or she did something, the response will often be, “I don’t know.” And the child literally does not know why he did something he wouldn’t have consciously planned to do.
Regardless of where we stand on this widely misunderstood law, law enforcement, juvenile justice, child welfare, educators, and members of the mental and physical health communities can find common ground on this tragic issue because the common ground is the child being sold.