What VS. Stands For: Protection and Justice For All Child Victims of Human Trafficking

Debra Brown Steinberg
VS. Founder and Chair, VS. Editorial Board

President Obama recently signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013. Minors under the age of 18, who engage in commercial sex acts, are protected under federal law, which defines them as per se victims of a severe form of trafficking, without requiring proof of force, fraud, or coercion. Under New York Penal Law, however, a sixteen- or seventeen-year old can be arrested for prostitution and prosecuted as an adult in criminal court, even though federal law automatically considers that same child a trafficking victim, and despite the fact that other New York statutes expressly incorporate the federal statutory presumption.

States across the country, including New York, are taking up anti-trafficking legislative reform this Summer. New York’s proposed Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, in its current iteration, fails to align the State’s Penal Law with the federal statutory presumption for trafficking victims under age 18, which New York’s Safe Harbor Act and its post-conviction relief statute incorporate, and with New York’s statutory rape statute. This and upcoming VS. issues focus on the injustice of criminalizing child trafficking victims and the irreparable harm this policy causes. Absent reform measures that decriminalize sixteen- and seventeen-year old trafficking victims, these children will continue to be denied both protection and justice under the law.


Child Protection/Trafficking Legal Remedies

by Norma Abbene, Observer on The Uniform Law Commission Drafting Committee on Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking

Norma Abbene discusses the compelling need for model state legislation specific to sex trafficking of minors under age 18. "There needs to be a system in place that treats them like what they are—children." Ms. Abbene supports an approach that prioritizes the interests of victimized minors and replaces the conflicting anti-trafficking laws in, and among, the states.


Measuring Human Trafficking:
“If You Can’t Measure It,
It Doesn’t Exist”

by Debra Brown Steinberg
with Qian Wang

New York State’s incoherent anti-trafficking legislative framework and its criminalization of trafficked sixteen- and seventeen-year old juveniles present serious barriers to obtaining reliable data on the prevalence of human trafficking, leading to such material adverse consequences as undercounting and inadequate resource allocation.



VS. Congratulates The Legal Aid Society of New York City’s Kate Mogulescu


by Debra Brown Steinberg

Kate Mogulescu, a nationally recognized advocate for survivors of human trafficking, has been selected as Supervising Attorney of The Legal Aid Society of New York City’s pioneering Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project, which is expanding, under her leadership, beyond the Manhattan pilot project to every borough in the City.


A Conversation with Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer Taro Yamasaki

Taro Yamasaki discusses the making of the “Black Heart, Red Heart” exhibition of his photographs challenging myths and misperceptions blinding us to human trafficking in America.


In The News

New advances in the use of technology to rescue victims of human trafficking, develop innovative prevention strategies, and combat this growing crime take center stage.

Addressing Human Trafficking: Guidelines for Technological Interventions explores ways “to responsibly create technology interventions to address the domestic sex trafficking of minors.”

Polaris Project Launches Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network announces “a new alliance of anti-trafficking hotlines that will build a broader safety net for survivors of modern-day slavery[,] ... [and] create a data-driven approach that identifies human trafficking trends and informs eradication, prevention, and victim protection strategies.”

Human Trafficking Hotline Accepts Text Messages reports that “victims, survivors and others wishing to connect with the [Polaris Project] national human trafficking hotline can [now] send a text to ‘BeFree’ or 233733.”


Domestic Human Trafficking In the News

We bring you curated national, regional, and local news, reports, and articles on domestic human trafficking and related topics.


VS. Resource Guide

This comprehensive compilation of resources, organized by audience and service type, assists all segments of the domestic anti-trafficking community, including public, nonprofit, academic, and private sectors, as well as victims and survivors of domestic human trafficking.

Search for Resources

VS. Library

This online archive, organized into reading rooms for the benefit of different segments of the anti-trafficking community, gives a synopsis of, and links to, curated research and source materials pertaining to human trafficking in America.


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