If I say Senate Bill 245, can you tell me which bill it is? Probably not. Senate Bill 245 is also known as the Safe Harbor Bill, which the Wisconsin government, along with its citizens, should work towards passing.
Safe Harbor grants “child victims of sex trafficking immunity from prosecution on prostitution charges,” according to Fight To End Exploitation (FEE).
FEE ranks as a 501 (c) (3) organization and collaborative network that advocates for victims of human trafficking while educating the community. Formerly known as the Racine Coalition Against Human Trafficking, FEE is a “recognized leader against human trafficking”.
The organization began in Racine, Wisconsin with the Racine Dominicans and their fight against human trafficking.
It is important to understand the laws relating to sex trafficking.
If an adult sexually assaults or rapes a minor, that adult can be charged with sexual assault or rape of a minor. But in Wisconsin, if an adult pays to have sex with a minor, that adult is only charged with soliciting.
While Wisconsin law says minors cannot give consent, if money is involved, it says a minor can be charged with prostitution. This is not the only thing that contradicts federal law.
According to FEE, current Wisconsin state law contradicts the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which “treats coerced children as victims, even if they have engaged in the criminal activity of prostitution,” but removes the possibility to accuse victims of child sex trafficking of prostitution. It does not legalize child prostitution.
We have a chance to change this contradiction by passing the Safe Harbor Bill. There was a public hearing in the State Senate on September 23 regarding the bill.
FEE Executive Director Melania Brostowitz attended the public hearing and wrote a letter to the Senate Committee on Justice and Public Safety.
“Under federal law, a child under the age of eighteen who is encouraged to have commercial sex is trafficked and should be treated as such,” Brostowitz said in the letter. “Basically there are no child prostitutes.”
When Minnesota passed the Safe Harbor Law in 2011, which came into effect in 2014, convictions of sex traffickers quadrupled as children were more likely to testify against their abusers.
“It sounds like it should be bipartisan obvious, but it’s Wisconsin,” said Kristin Brey, founder and chief content creator of As Goes Wisconsin.
According to Shared Hope International, 31 states have already passed legislation similar to this one, so where is ours? According to FEE, there have been 99 corroborated reports to the Children and Families Department of child sex trafficking in a recent 15-month period. Half of those cases occurred in Milwaukee, while the other half occurred in the rest of the state.
It took more than six years for this bill to be introduced in the Senate. If you live in Wisconsin or another state that has not passed similar legislation, contact senators in your state and let them know your support for Senate Bill 245: The Safe Harbor Bill.