Four members of the Community United for Safety and Protection, a group of sex trafficking victims, current and retired sex workers, and their allies, attended the Salvation Army’s Sex Trafficking Conference Saturday, Sept 28 2013.
Honestly we were afraid – it’s kind of traumatic to have people who make a living by locking people like you up explain what they think about people like you, and how they rescue you by locking you up. We were pretty sure that people involved in convicting one of our members would be there and perhaps try to harass or intimidate her. In fact, the cops politely stayed far away from us and wouldn’t even make eye contact, and the Attorney General made a quick exit at the end of his presentation.
The Attorney General presented the recommendations of his Task Force on Human Trafficking. Their number one recommendation was to build trust between victims and law enforcement, so we asked him why they hadn’t recommended decriminalizing victims so that they could have the same access to protection by law enforcement as other Alaskans. He explained, “I’m not sure it should be decriminalized. I think there can be mature women who know, they’re of the age they should know better. They’re committing crimes.” He added that “if they are a victim we should try to do everything within reason to make it easier for them to re-enter society.”
Just a few short months ago he was quoted as saying that “Prostitutes are really not criminals. They’re really victims. We as a society and a government have to change the way we think about that.” Now victims are really criminals. How confusing.
Jolene from the FBI presented about the reality that she sees. Her views seemed very balanced for a person in her position. She explained that when she decides to prosecute a sex trafficking victim for sex trafficking it’s always a “very difficult decision” which she puts a lot of thought into. She went on to explain that she is for Safe Harbor laws which would allow victims of sex trafficking to have prostitution charges removed from their records and gave an example of a trafficking victim who was fired from a fast food job because of a prostitution charge still on her record years after Jolene had “rescued” her. However, Jolene said, she does find it necessary to arrest underage victims if they are “not identifying as a victim” for their own safety.
Other presenters from local agencies who work with victims of sex trafficking seemed caring and interested in our actual realities. An outreach worker from Covenant House described situations that we were all familiar with. It was heartwarming to see so many peoples’ passion for service, and we made some great connections.
Also, we made it on the news!!! I love the way KTUU handled the story.