There’s an alarming increase in Rochester children who are being sold for sex.
Police, medical officials, and local agencies referred 127 cases of kids in 2014 who could be sexually exploited. Last year, 62 of those children admitted they had been sold for sex. The Center for Youth Safe Harbor program which offers to counsel the children and teens still have more than 200 open cases.
Child rights and protection advocate Melanie Blow, Chief Operations Officer for the Stop Abuse Campaign says such deplorable practice has been going on “for a very, very long time.”
Blow acknowledges, however, that with strengthened laws against trafficking they are seeing some changes in the community’s attitudes toward prostitution, and a willingness to understand and view many prostitutes, especially those who are still minors, as victims and not as criminals.
The pressure is still on, however, for New York lawmakers to do more to stop trafficking.
Anti-sex abuse organization Shared Hope International recently gave New York a grade of D in its efforts to halt sex trafficking. The group is also interested in the treatment of men who buy minors for sex. Their beef is that the buyers are not covered by the state’s sex trafficking laws. Aside from that, the New York laws also require proof that a trafficker exerted “force, fraud or coercion“ when trafficking a minor- something not required by federal law.
Some lawmakers now want that changed. Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, and Senator Andrew Lanza have introduced a bill that would change the state law to reflect the same as the federal law.
Another supporter of the proposed law is anti-trafficking activist Laure Hersh, national director for the non-profit group World Without Exploitation, who said: “It’s crazy that we require 12-year-olds to go into the grand jury and prove force, fraud, or coercion.
Hersh also said that she believes that state law for sex buyers is strong enough. Men and women who pay for sex with minors face tougher penalties including up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
Another thing that Hersh finds positive these days is that she’s already seeing changes in sex-trafficking - be it in societal attitudes and laws.