Sex trafficking is a horrific crime whereby a person is forced or coerced to take part in sexual acts in exchange for something of value. In Washington D.C. such abuse of women and children is not uncommon. Unfortunately, in many cases a person who is sex trafficked is treated as a criminal rather than a victim who is unable to escape the physical abuse and psychological coercion to which she is subjected. Now, the D.C. Council is poised to vote on legislation, entitled the Omnibus Crime Bill 18-151, which includes a provision that will make a third arrest of a prostituted person a felony level crime. These penalties are far too stiff for the prostituted person, will do little to address the instances of prostitution or sex trafficking in D.C., and may cause further damage to trafficking victims.
In many of these cases the victim, who has been forced or coerced into prostitution, even at the age of just 18, will have a litany of arrests or convictions for prostitution both in DC and other jurisdictions. This demonstrates the transient nature of the pimps’ operations. Arresting the prostituted person does little to deter the trafficker/pimp or provide relief or rescue for the prostituted person. In fact, if enacted, this provision may cause further victimization as well as present increased obstacles as a woman with a felony conviction attempts to rebuild her shattered life.
Sex traffickers and pimps are motivated only by money, and the people they prostitute are easily movable, disposable and replaceable. Therefore we urge you to join with us and ask the D.C. Council to oppose the overreaching penalties for prostituted persons, and consider focusing their attention on the pimps and purchasers of sex or "johns".
51st State NOW strongly supports the increased penalties for johns proposed in this bill. Johns exercise meaningful choice when they engage in commercial sex transactions, so efforts to deter their activity will have a greater impact in reducing prostitution and sex trafficking, which are inextricably intertwined.
I agree, so I sent the following letter to our mayor:
Dear Mayor Fenty:
Please send this crime bill back to the council so they can remove the excessive criminal penalties for persons arrested for prostitution.
I don't know what's going on in DC, but for a community of sinners, we are being very hard on the women involved in one of the oldest professions.
Perhaps it's because we don't want to arrest the MEN involved or charge them with a felony for their third conviction. If we did that, my goodness...half of Congress, not to mention the City Council, would be in jail.
Whatever the twisted reasoning, it makes no sense at all to charge women, who often are coerced into prostitution, with a felony for this "crime."
I would also suggest you encourage the Council members to get over themselves.
ex-nun, mother, grandmother, and soon-to-be [well, within the next 5 years, I suspect] greatgrandmother