According to the Department of Justice, the city of Seattle is considered one of the United States’ worst sex trafficking offenders. In fact, just three weeks ago, fifty-five adults engaging in prostitution were identified and interviewed, and three child victims were recovered, as part of the FBI’s Operation Cross Country VII. FBI Teams found victims in Seattle and many of the King County cities that surround it, including Everett, Federal Way, Kirkland, Lakewood, Renton, Tacoma, and Tukwila.
It’s not all bad news. Although Washington has led the nation in trafficking and prostitution cases, the Evergreen State has also long been a leader in efforts to combat the problem (see Seattle’s Long History with Prostitution). Ten years after Washington passed the nation’s first anti-trafficking laws, it continues to lead the fight against human trafficking with twelve additional laws.
Polaris Project, named after the North Star that guided slaves toward freedom along the Underground Railroad, recently released their annual report. This report tracks state statutes believed to be critical to comprehensive anti-trafficking framework; in it, Washington State received a perfect score (pictured above).
15 Washington State Anti-Trafficking Laws:
- SB 5669 §9A.40.100. Defines trafficking as recruiting, harboring, transporting, transferring, providing, obtaining, purchasing, or by any means receiving another person, knowing, or in reckless disregard of the fact, that force, fraud, or coercion has been used to cause that person to engage in forced labor, involuntary servitude, a sexually explicit act, or a commercial sex act; knowing that a person has not attained the age of eighteen years and causing them to engage in a sexually explicit act or a commercial sex act; or benefitting financially from these acts. Involves committing or attempting to commit kidnapping; illegal harvesting or sale of human organs; or commercial sexual exploitation that results in a death.
- §9A.88.0001. Allows forfeiture of property including aircrafts, boats, vehicles, houses, moneys, negotiable instruments, securities, and other things of value used to facilitate trafficking. Allows seizure of all books, records, and research products and materials used, or intended for use, in trafficking cases, including formulas, microfilm, tapes, and data.
- §9.73.230 Authorizes the interception, transmission, or recording of a conversation or communication, when probable cause exists, for a party engaging in the commercial sexual abuse of a minor, promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor, or promoting travel for commercial sexual abuse of a minor.
- SB 6476 Provides law enforcement additional training on identifying sexually exploited children.
- HB 1291 Creates a statewide committee on sex trafficking, including members from sexual assault and domestic violence coalitions, members from community advocacy groups and service providers, and representatives from the Senate and House of Representatives, the Attorney General’s office, the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration office, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and many others, to examine the practices of local and regional entities involved in addressing sex trafficking, and to develop a statewide plan.
- §47.38.080. Posts human trafficking information and hotline numbers, in a variety of languages, at bathroom stalls in rest stops, so a person may call for assistance.
- §13.32A.030. Expands and defines the language of a “child in need.” Defines a sexually exploited child as any person under the age of eighteen who is a victim of the crime of commercial sex abuse.
- §13.40.219. Defines the criteria of for a sex trafficking offender who is also a victim of a severe trafficking or commercial sex abuse of a minor.
- §13.32A.270. Within available funding, diverts youth allegedly in prostitution, or prostitution loitering, to services and treatment, rather than jail.
- §9A.40.100 (1)(a)(i)(A). Lowers the burden of proof for sex trafficking of minors.
- §7.68.360. Coordinates state agencies for the delivery of services to victims of human.
- §19.320.050. Requires the Department of Labor and Industries to provide posters and brochures that include information on how to assist victims of human trafficking, as well as the toll-free telephone number of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and the Washington State Office of Crime Victims Advocacy.
- §36.22.179. Mandates that a surcharge be collected by the county auditor for each document recorded, to be used for the purposes of the creation of a strategic housing plan and other services for homeless persons.
- §9A.82.100. Allows for civil penalty (not exceeding two hundred fifty thousand dollars, in addition to the cost of the suit, investigative and attorney fees) to prevent, restrain, and remedy a pattern of criminal profiteering.
- §9.96.060. Allows every person convicted of prostitution, who committed the offense as a result of being a victim of trafficking, to petition the sentencing court for vacation of the applicant’s record of conviction for the prostitution offense.
While there are no easy solutions to the problem of human trafficking, two barriers to its eradication are legislative change and enforcement and adequate resources. Fortunately, Washington State continues to champion the legislative change necessary and many state and local agencies are committed to their enforcement. Unfortunately, adequate resources for victims still lack. At REST, we continue to hear stories of young women who desire help with no where to go. We serve clients in need of emergency and long-term housing solutions, extensive medical, dental and psychological care, education options, job training and the list goes on and on. REST is committed to helping women find freedom and healing from sexual exploitation and know that they are worthy of the dreams they once imagined. If you would like to partner with us, visit our website.
Bridget Battistoni is Director of Operations for REST: Real Escape from the Sex Trade