5 Ways Safe Harbor Laws Support Young Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Flashing police lights.
Decriminalization: Many safe harbor laws classify youth arrested for prostitution as victims, not criminals. According to Polaris, many states grant immunity from prosecution for victims younger than 18 years old.

In 2008, New York became the first state to stop prosecuting young victims of commercial sexual exploitation with the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act.

Since then, 33 more states have adopted varying safe harbor laws, decriminalizing youth arrested for prostitution and providing services to help them heal and move forward.

Each law looks different in practice, so it’s important for service providers to know what the law in their state says and what their responsibilities are, says Howard Davidson, founding director of the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law.

Want to know about human trafficking protections for young victims of commercial sexual exploitation in your state? Polaris, which operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, provides issue briefs on laws and other tools that prevent trafficking and help victims, including  safe harbor laws (PDF, 152KB).

In the meantime, check out our slideshow on the provisions commonly included in safe harbor laws across the country.

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