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Safe Harbor Initiative

The Need for Safe Harbor Initiatives

Although many states and the federal government recognize the crime of human trafficking, laws continue to hold trafficking victims criminally responsible when they engage in prostitution. Despite growing recognition that trafficked persons are crime victims, trafficked adults may be charged with prostitution crimes and trafficked children under age 18 may be adjudicated as “delinquents” for engaging in prostitution. Treating trafficked persons as criminals or delinquents subjects them to punishment and detention, rather than providing services to help them recover from trafficking. 

Led by advocates including ECPAT-USA and the Polaris Project, states have begun recognizing that human trafficking victims should not be treated as criminals. By 2013, twenty states had taken some steps toward ensuring that trafficked children do not automatically face deliquency proceedings for engaging in prostitution or provide some services for trafficked youth. While many states' approaches fail to ensure that no child faces delinquency proceedings for being trafficked, these efforts represent the beginning of a new approach to protecting victims.

Beginning in 2011, The Advocates for Human Rights led Minnesota's efforts to eliminate the use of juvenile delinquency against trafficked youth and to ensure that comprehensive, victim-centered services are available statewide to meet the needs of victims.

Read more about the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act of 2011, which excluded prostituted children from the definition of “delinquent child” to ensure they can not be held criminally accountable for engaging in prostitution and created a framework for a victim-centered, trauma-informed, culturally appropriate approach to meeting the needs of each individual child. That framework, known as the No Wrong Door approach, resulted from a year-long, statewide, multi-disciplinary consultative process.

Read more about the Safe Harbor 2013 initiative which included all children under 18 within Safe Harbor protection and which created a statewide Safe Harbor director and regional navigators to ensure access to services for victims statewide and appropriated money for housing.

Read The Advocates for Human Rights' report Safe Harbor: Fulfilling Minnesota's Promise to Protect Sexually Exploited Youth.

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