Washington lawmakers earns high rating for fighting sex trafficking

State is one of three to earn an A from Shared Hope International

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor


Updated: November 12, 2013, 5:46 PM


Did you know?

Human trafficking is defined by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act as:

• “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”

• “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”

Source: Shared Hope International

The Washington Legislature is a leader in the fight to end sex trafficking, earning an A grade, Vancouver-based Shared Hope International announced Tuesday. Washington shares the top grade with just two other states, Louisiana and Tennessee.

Shared Hope president Linda Smith, formerly a U.S. representative for Southwest Washington, announced her organization’s 2013 state-by-state report on sex trafficking before a state Senate Law and Justice Committee meeting in Spokane.

Smith highlighted the work of two Washington state senators in particular, Sens. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who were instrumental in passing anti-trafficking legislation.

Across the country, vulnerable girls have been encouraged to work in the sex industry, and selling minors for sex has become a lucrative business for traffickers. Washington lawmakers passed the first anti-trafficking bill in 2002 and have passed a total of 33 anti-trafficking bills into law.

“I am incredibly proud of the outstanding bipartisan leadership shown by Senators Padden and Kohl-Welles that passed tough laws this year to make it clear that we have no tolerance in Washington state for those who shop for the innocence of children on the Internet or at local hotels or strip clubs,” Smith said in a statement.

92.5 percent score

Shared Hope gave Washington a score of 92.5 percent. The score is based on whether states provide tools for investigating and prosecuting trafficking, whether they have protections for trafficked minors, and how the state penalizes pimps and johns who are caught exploiting minors.

Tennessee earned a grade of 93.5 percent and Louisiana earned a grade of 93 percent from Shared Hope. The worst states, receiving an F, are Hawaii, California, South Dakota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maine.

“Washington was the first state in the country to enact anti-trafficking laws,” Kohl-Wells said in a statement. “Particularly significant is that our work has been completely bipartisan, as we all recognize the terrible injustice and harm taking place in our state and country.”

The state also received recognition recently from another organization fighting human trafficking, the Polaris Project, which gave Washington and New Jersey a perfect score this year for meeting the group’s 10 criteria for fighting sex trafficking.

Room to improve

Washington still has room to improve, however, according to Shared Hope’s state-by-state report. According to the report card, child sex trafficking victims in the state still may be prosecuted for prostitution and face time in a juvenile detention facility instead of receiving services through a shelter.

“While the fight to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children may never end, unfortunately, it’s uplifting to know the laws we make are of value to our allies in this cause, such as Shared Hope International,” Padden said in a statement. “Their encouragement, and the knowledge they share from working around the world, help us to rise and continue this battle year after year.”