CALCASA has been working with Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) on legislation to support minors who are victims of trafficking and prostitution. SB 1349 will amend the current California penal code to state that a person under 18 years of age who has been exploited through prostitution, loitering for the purpose of prostitution, or engaged in commercial sex acts shall be treated as a victim of sexual abuse if it is the first conviction. A person 18 years old or under cannot consent to sex. However, the current California State law supports a perception that prostituted children are delinquent youth who have willfully committed a crime.

If SB 1349 is passed, the minor may be adjudged as a dependent child of the court as those minors who have been neglected, physically harmed or sexually abused. Instead of being arrested and detained, a minor engaged in prostitution will receive social services and counseling. Continue reading to see the full press release from Senator Yee’s office.

Yee Announces Bill to Help Kids Who Are Exploited Through Trafficking and Prostitution

Bill will ensure children exploited through prostitution receive victim services for sexual abuse

SACRAMENTO – Despite the fact that children cannot legally consent to sexual acts, when children are engaged in prostitution or sex trafficked, they are often misidentified and charged as criminals rather than victims of sexual abuse or statutory rape.
Along with several child advocates, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) today announced legislation that would treat children as victims, rather than criminals, when they are exploited through prostitution, sex trafficking, or commercial sex.
“Our laws rightfully protect children from sexual abuse and recognize that child brain development doesn’t allow minors the ability to legally consent,” said Yee. “Yet the minute there is money involved, California law treats those same kids as criminals. Those kids should also be considered victims – in fact, they are often the most vulnerable – and they deserve the same services and treatment as other survivors of child sex abuse.”
Most of California’s prostitution laws treat children the same as adults, with the first conviction punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine. The second convictions are subject to a mandatory minimum of 45 days in a county jail, and subsequent convictions a mandatory minimum of 90 days.
Under Yee’s bill, children in such situations for the first time will be treated the same as other child victims of sexual assault – assessed to see if it is appropriate for them to be released to their parent or guardian, or otherwise referred to the county welfare department.
Sandra Henriquez, the Executive Director of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), said, “CALCASA is committed to support legislation, like SB 1349, that protects California’s children from sexual exploitation. People who are under the age of 18 are not able to consent to sexual acts, and therefore, the law must see this population as victims of sexual abuse rather than criminals.”
“As an agency with over 15 years of experience working with sexually exploited minors in the Bay Area, the SAGE Project is proud to be represented by leaders such as Senator Leland Yee who work tirelessly to bring attention to this often overlooked and vulnerable population,” said Antonia Balkanska Lavine, Vice President of the SAGE Project Board of Directors. “Legislative efforts to ensure that sexually exploited minors are treated as crime victims are critical for safeguarding our children’s futures.”
Several states have already defined children as victims in such cases of commercial sex and prostitution, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Alabama, and others. SB 1349 would finally allow California to join these other states in defining children as victims in these cases.
In 2004, Yee successfully passed AB 3042 provide added an additional year of prison for those convicted of a sexual offense with a minor when the crime was committed for money or other consideration. Despite change in law, many children are continuing to be prosecuted as criminals on their first offense.
“In 2004, we tried to send a very clear message to prosecutors that they should treat these children differently than adults,” said Yee. “And while DAs have utilized the 1-year enhancement to go after pimps and johns, many still prosecute the kids as well. SB 1349 will ensure we give all kids a chance and provide these victims with the help they so desperately need.”
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