A hearing was held Wednesday by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security that addressed sex trafficking of domestic minors within the United States. Currently, the committee is considering the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010, which is sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Witnesses at the hearing stated that as many as 100,000 to 300,000 children are victims of sex trafficking within the US annually.
According to Maloney's testimony (see PDF) at the hearing, the bill "would provide shelter and care for victims, including specialized counseling, clothing and other daily needs in order to keep victims from returning to the street. It creates a comprehensive, victim-centered approach to addressing the sex trafficking of minors. It also aims to ensure adequate resources for law enforcement and prosecutors to rescue victims and put pimps behind bars. Importantly, the legislation will strengthen deterrence and prevention programs aimed at potential buyers." The bill is unique because it focuses "exclusively on minor victims and increase[ing] the share of funding available for shelters. Lack of appropriate shelters often force law enforcement to send victims to juvenile detention facilities where there is no access to appropriate services or release them, knowing that they will likely end up back in the hands of their pimps."
The role of the internet in the trafficking of minors was also addressed in the hearing. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) referenced the recent closure of the so-called "adult services" section on Craigslist. The "adult services" section is still operational on Craigslist outside of the US. According to Speier's testimony (see PDF) "Thinly disguised ads for sex on Craigslist received three times as many responses as ads placed on other sites." She also stated that "Between 2004 and 2008 child prostitution complaints originating from the internet increased by 1000 percent. Further, websites are literally immune from being held liable for their role in these crimes. In an effort to fuel innovation, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act in 1996. Today, websites escape liability even when an ad on their site results in child prostitution, rape or death."
Media Resources: Testimony of Carolyn Maloney 9/15/10, Testimony of Jackie Speier 9/15/10