If the idea of human trafficking makes you think of a far away, developing country, then think again. Human trafficking is happening in a community near you.
In the U.S., the number of people trafficked is difficult to estimate, but the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children says that approximately 100,000 children in the United States are forced into sex trafficking every year.
Last July, the FBI announced that it had rescued more than 100 sexually exploited children in Operation Cross Country, a nationwide sweep of sex traffickers.
It’s not just children, though; women and men in the U.S. are also taken and forced into work against their will all the time.
Human trafficking, as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, can be the recruitment, transportation or harboring of people by means of force, deception or coercion. Victims, often mentally and physically abused, can be forced into prostitution, unfair working conditions or other exploitative situations.
The Polaris Project, which runs the U.S. human trafficking hotline, has just released its 2013 ratings of the 50 U.S. states in terms of their anti-trafficking laws and the protections they afford to victims.
The good news is that 39 U.S. states have passed legislation against human trafficking this year. This means that for the first time, a majority of states have substantial laws to battle this egregious practice.
Polaris has been preparing their scorecard for four years, hoping that it will a catalyst for change, and it seems to be working. The group has helped pass 40 new laws in more than half the states in the U.S.
From USA Today:
“We try to provide a snapshot to the country about the presence or absence of the legal framework that we believe needs to be in place for every state across the country,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project.
The rankings are based on a 12-point scale and divided into four tiers. New Jersey and Washington ranked highest on the list achieving perfect scores of 12, while South Dakota was the only state in the bottom tier. Overall, 32 states were in the top tier.
Tier one states have passed “significant laws,” while tier four states have not made “minimal efforts.”
Here are the five worst states, according to Polaris:
#1 South Dakota
South Dakota is the only state in the most critical category Tier 4, and it comes in dead last as the number one worst state for the fight to end human trafficking.
#2 New Hampshire
New Hampshire, the last of the Tier 3 states, has the second-lowest score in the whole country. The state’s legislature has made only minimal efforts to fight the issue of trafficking.
Even though small, the state of Delaware does have sex and labor trafficking provisions and some investigative tools, but it lacks more substantial safeguards to fight trafficking.
Colorado is another Tier 3 state with four points. It suffers from many of the problems the other states have. One horrifying example: it does not lift prostitution charges from sex trafficking victims.
Another Tier 3 state is Utah. Utah lacks a human trafficking hotline, special protections for persecuted minors, a lower burden of proof for victimized minors, and victim assistance or damages compensation. It’s also another state that does not allow victims of trafficking to have prostitution charges removed from their records.
To find out exactly where your state stands on the issue of human trafficking, check out the Polaris Project results here.
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