While Connecticut lawmakers consider legislation strengthening statutes against perpetrators of human trafficking and protecting its victims, certain aspects of the proposed language for RB 7309 – An Act Concerning Human Trafficking demonstrate the difference between passing good legislation and making strong, effective laws that protect all victims of human trafficking in Connecticut and reduce its demand and frequency.

Yes, the following gets technical, but it’s important even for those of us who aren’t political wonks.
 
As stated in 7309, “Section 4 (a) A person is guilty of commercial sexual abuse of a minor when: (1) Such person pays a fee to a minor or third person as compensation for a minor having engaged in sexual conduct with such person; (2) such person pays or agrees to pay a fee to a minor or a third person pursuant to an understanding that in return for such fee the minor will engage in sexual conduct with such person; or (3) such person solicits, offers or requests to engage in sexual conduct with a minor, or any other person that such person reasonably believes to be a minor, in return for a fee.”

During my testimony to the Judiciary Committee on March 27, 2017, I said this: “I would strongly urge additional language that takes into account the reality of how this crime against young people takes place online. The abuse suffered through the commercial sexual exploitation of minors occurs in both the real and virtual worlds. This language must include commercial sexual acts or performances by a minor whether or not the person paying a fee for the sex act is in physical contact or the same physical location with the minor.”

In other words, it should be illegal if a man in Connecticut pays someone to have a minor perform a sex act on the internet.

So, how do Connecticut legislators make it illegal for men to hire minors to perform sex acts online? Simple. Change the 7309’s language with 12 words (in blue): “Sec. 4 (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2017) (a) A person is guilty of commercial sexual abuse of a minor when: (1) Such person pays a fee to a minor or third person as compensation for a minor having engaged in sexual conduct with such person or through the use of an interactive computer service, perform sexual acts; (2) such person pays or agrees to pay a fee to a minor or a third person pursuant to an understanding that in return for such fee the minor will engage in sexual conduct with such person or through the use of an interactive computer service, perform sexual acts; or (3) such person solicits, offers or requests to engage in sexual conduct or through the use of an interactive computer service, perform sexual acts with a minor, or any other person that such person reasonably believes to be a minor, in return for a fee.

Why make these changes? This addition directly addresses and reduces the demand side of trafficking.

As Jennifer said in her testimony on the same day, “The fact that I’m sitting here in front of you today – free, healthy, and sober – is a miracle. Getting out of human trafficking and its inherent drug addiction doesn’t happen very often. But it should. So let this be a message to everyone who hears me: I know longer speak at the command of my pimp or by the wishes of trial lawyers or for the promises of do-gooders. I speak now only for those who have no voice, victims of human trafficking who are waiting for someone to lift them out of their nightmare and stand with them as they reclaim their lives.”

Connecticut lawmakers need to make these changes. They need to hear the voices of those who cannot speak.