Washington DC: Take Action on the DC Crime BIll
Sex trafficking is horrific crime whereby a person is forced or coerced to take part in sexual acts in exchange for something of value. In Washington D.C. such abuse of women and children is not uncommon. Unfortunately, in many cases a person who is sex trafficked is treated as a criminal rather than a victim who is unable to escape the physical abuse and psychological coercion to which she is subjected. Now, the D.C. Council is poised to vote on legislation, entitled the Omnibus Crime Bill 18-151, which includes a provision that will make a third arrest of a prostituted person a felony level crime. These penalties are far too stiff for the prostituted person, will do little to address the instances of prostitution or sex trafficking in D.C., and may cause further damage to trafficking victims.
Polaris Project serves clients throughout the D.C. metro area, as well as in NJ, who have been forced or coerced into prostitution. In many of these cases the victim, even at the age of just 18, will have a litany of arrests or convictions for prostitution both in DC and other jurisdictions. This demonstrates the transient nature of the pimps’ operations. Arresting the prostituted person does little to deter the trafficker/pimp or provide relief or rescue for the prostituted person. In fact, if enacted, this provision may cause further victimization as well as present increased obstacles as a woman with a felony conviction attempts to rebuild her shattered life.
Sex traffickers and pimps are motivated only by money, and the people they prostitute are easily movable, disposable and replaceable. Therefore we urge you to join with us and ask the D.C. Council to oppose the overreaching penalties for prostituted persons, and consider focusing their attention on the pimps and purchasers of sex or “johns”.
Polaris Project strongly supports the increased penalties for johns proposed in this bill. Johns exercise meaningful choice when they engage in commercial sex transactions, so efforts to deter their activity will have a greater impact in reducing prostitution and sex trafficking, which are inextricably intertwined.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
The crime bill was passed by the DC Council on July 30th and the bill now moves to the Mayor. Your quick action is imperative to helping victims of sex trafficking in DC!
1. Please take a moment to call AND email Mayor Fenty and urge him to send the DC Crime bill back to the Council and recommending that they remove the increased penalties for prostituted persons. Contact Mayor Fenty here. In your call you can simply say: ”My name is …. And I live at…. I am calling to urge Mayor Fenty to send the DC Crime Bill (18-151) back to the Council to remove the increased penalties for prostituted persons.”
2. Be sure to follow up with a quick email.
Additional Talking Points:
• The proposed penalties are far too stiff for the prostituted person – up to 2-5 years in prison and or up to $4,000 to $10,000 in fines. These fines will simply result in the re-victimization of the prostituted person or trafficking victim, and there’s no evidence that this approach will decrease prostitution in the District.
• Victims of prostitution and sex trafficking commonly have many arrests or convictions for prostitution because pimps and traffickers are constantly moving them around to different areas to profit off of them [we never call this work]. Increasing penalties for the victim will do little to deter the trafficker/pimp or provide relief or rescue to the prostituted person.
• Greater penalties for prostituted persons may cause further victimization as well as present increased obstacles as a woman with a felony conviction attempts to rebuild her shattered life.
• The vast majority of states retain the misdemeanor penalty for subsequent convictions of the prostituted person. In the handful of states which make subsequent convictions a felony for the prostituted person, there is no correlation between these higher penalties and a decrease in prostitution and the closely related activity of sex trafficking. This is likely due to the fact that traffickers and pimps are motivated only by money, and the people they prostitute are easily movable, disposable and replaceable.
• Studies have shown that focusing criminal prosecution on the purchasers of commercial sex will have an immediate and long-term effect in curbing the demand for prostitution.