Views of people involved in the commercial sex trade have shifted. This new framework is part of a broader anti-trafficking movement in society to recognize and save vulnerable individuals who are exploited for sex. In this context, the model of problem-solving or specialty courts has been extended to sex trafficking cases.
The current review examines the prevalence and the effectiveness of sex trafficking courts. Although some promising evaluations have been conducted, it remains unclear whether such courts are addressing the unique needs of victim-defendants. Investigating this question is essential, given that trafficking courts are likely to grow in popularity and in .
I had been in and out of jails, mental health hospitals, emergency rooms, and drug treatment programs since the age of twelve. No one ever asked me about my life, about prostitution, about being raped, or about being kidnapped. No one asked me about the metal plate and the screws in my head from the beatings, about my suicide attempts, or about my desperation. No one asked me if I hurt, or why I hurt.
No one ever treated me like a person.
I was just a whore, a drug addict, and a criminal. It has not always been the case, however, that individuals who peddled sex were viewed as potential trafficking victims. Thus, the criminal justice reaction was to enforce some level of punishment when prostitutes were identified. Importantly, how the females felt about their own behavior e. It is only recently that perspectives have shifted and prostitution has been recognized as a form of trafficking.
The changing narrative has also reoriented the response to these crimes and emphasized the need to identify victims so that they do not continue to go undetected. In this context, criminal justice actors have become increasingly important in identifying victims. As a result, the justice system offers a potential point of intervention where victims can be diverted to services and support.
Problem-solving trafficking courts have been created and applied to these cases as one of the tools to further this initiative. In this way, the evolving social construction of who sex trafficking victims are has serious implications for everyday protocols within the justice system. As a prelude to the current study, the following sections will provide an overview of three areas that have contributed to the anti-trafficking movement.
First, the social contexts that have influenced how we ly and currently classify these behaviors are reviewed.
Second, the historical issues with how trafficking victims have been treated by the justice system are discussed. Finally, the development of problem-solving trafficking courts is examined. Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine the existence and implementation of current trafficking courts, including any corresponding evaluations.
Sex trafficking is a complex offense that requires the repeated manipulation and exploitation of a person to be successfully carried out.
Although trafficking is now recognized as a growing concern, it is a relatively new term to describe behaviors that have existed for centuries. By using this language, an image is often generated of young girls being chained or bound by offenders who force them into commercial sex acts without pay.
Of course, this phrase and the subsequent response to rescue victims was not a chance event. Historically, slavery has gone through phases of acceptance and rejection by civilizations Davis, ; Miers, Depending on the context, slavery has been labeled using different words as a way to elevate certain victims over others. Over time, the meaning of this phrase evolved to describe the forced prostitution of White women and girls Keire, ; Weiner, The belief that females were being compelled to engage in sex ultimately led to the passage of the White Slave Traffic Act in —otherwise known as the Mann Act Doezema, ; Weiner, Although this Act was the first federal legislation related to trafficking, it has been argued that it was developed and used to control public morality regarding prostitution e.
The epidemic of forced prostitution continued to be promoted in part due to media reports that recounted the exploitation of women and children across the globe e. Coupled with increasing concerns about sexually transmitted diseases e. Legislators took note of the increasing interest in addressing these crimes and the role that Americans had in facilitating or supporting commercial sex Collie, ; Donegan, ; Stetson, The accumulation of these efforts resulted in the first federal legislation to criminalize human trafficking specifically.
The passage of the TVPA shifted the way these behaviors were viewed by specifying that the inducement of commercial Local Sluts Center TX by force, fraud, or coercion was an offense for anyone affected—not just females or White individuals.
The update in terminology is especially important because it affects the way society views these offenses and their level of support for intervention and prevention Stolz, This approach focuses on rescuing victims rather than punishing them for things that they were forced to do while being trafficked. For example, if individuals are coerced to sell sex, then there is no need to sanction their criminal behavior e.
Legal actors can instead focus their punishments on traffickers. Not everyone agrees, however, that commercial sex should be viewed through a victim-centered lens e.
There are two distinct perspectives on the topic: 1 neo-abolitionists and 2 sex positivists Gerassi, The neo-abolitionist group generally believes that commercial sex is oppressive against women, is never entirely consensual, and should be prohibited. The sex positivists believe that sex work is a legitimate form of employment that women have the autonomy to choose. It is likely that both perspectives can be empirically accurate, to an extent, depending on the individual who is engaging in sex work.
Some individuals are trafficking victims who are deceived and exploited e.
It is also possible that some voluntary sex workers can be trafficked e. Although these camps are likely to remain divided, the societal response has tended to favor the neo-abolitionist perspective. Today, there is a growing recognition that trafficking can simultaneously occur while victims are engaged in behaviors that violate the law e. Continued activism in the form of anti-trafficking legislation, state-level task forces, media attention, and scholarly research has aided the social construction that trafficking is a crime and a threat.
The recent shift to be more inclusive regarding who is being trafficked ifies a social agenda focused on providing services to victims, punishing traffickers, and preventing future crimes. Although trafficking has received increasing levels of attention, the ability to identify victims and investigate cases within the criminal justice system has remained elusive, for three main reasons. For example, trafficking victims are exposed to numerous negative experiences while they are being exploited including isolation, starvation, torture, manipulation, coercion, and physical and sexual abuse e.
Thus, even when victims are interacting with first responders, they are often hesitant to divulge their experiences.
Of course, those who perpetrate trafficking are subjected to arrest and prosecution in a traditional criminal court if they are caught. However, victims of trafficking are themselves often engaged in what would normally be defined as a criminal offense, such as prostitution. Police officers who are not able to recognize possible indicators of trafficking or who are not interested in shifting their perspective can end up misclassifying these events.
An interview with a law enforcement officer exemplifies this struggle: Yeah. Farrell et al.
Third, discrepancies in legislation across jurisdictions for minors result in inconsistent legal practices e. More specifically, federal legislation specifies that minors who are induced to engage in commercial sex should be classified as trafficking victims Victims of Local Sluts Center TX and Violence Protection Act of However, states can have varying criteria for minors who engage in commercial sex to be categorized as victims Polaris Project, These inconsistencies across jurisdictions lead to discrepancies when considering whether to rescue a minor as a victim or arrest a minor as an offender.
Similar issues arise when identifying adult females who are involved in commercial sex as trafficking victims—where some level of force, fraud, or coercion generally needs to be proven Rieger, For these reasons, trafficking victims have historically been overlooked or misclassified by first responders and the criminal justice system. In the latter case, the growing recognition that trafficking victims are being detained by the criminal justice system has prompted an additional layer of complexity for the agents who work in these fields.
In many cases, the realization that victims are being classified as offenders has resulted in frustration among agencies and key stakeholders on how to address these events because they are generally limited in their responses.
Furthermore, many victims of trafficking suffer from a variety of issues that make them vulnerable to potential revictimization e. Whereas ly this distinction was not taken intotoday there is a recognition that the misclassification of victim-defendants can result in continued vulnerability and exploitation Shigekane, As part of the anti-trafficking response in the United States, there have been updates to legislation U. Department of State, n. Department of Justice, These are intended to use treatment-oriented protocols to address the offenses committed by the individual and the trauma experienced from their exploitation Office for Victims of Crime, n.
In short, the intent is not to punish the crime but to solve the problems experienced by victims of sex trafficking, whether legal, emotional, or behavioral. There are now courts deed to process those who are addicted to drugs, drink and drive due to alcohol addiction, have engaged in domestic violence, or are military veterans e. By extending the problem-solving court model to trafficking victims, there is a consensus that trafficking victim-defendants are unique and deserve special treatment.
Because these courts also seek to Local Sluts Center TX the likelihood of subsequent exploitation, cases can involve known and potential victims who are at risk for trafficking—that is, individuals who have a of risk factors associated with trafficking but who have not been trafficked e.
Although sex and labor trafficking cases can be filtered into problem-solving courts, courts today mainly focus on addressing sex trafficking victim-defendants Office for Victims of Crime, n. Depending on the jurisdiction, trafficking-related procedures can be created in a separate trafficking court, incorporated into existing problem-solving or community courts, or added on as a specialized docket.