January 16, 2017
A new state law went into effect January 1st that is designed to protect children who are victims of sexual abuse. The law states that police and law enforcement officers in California can no longer arrest youth suspects of prostitution.
Minors just don’t have the same legal powers as adults, said Maheen Kaleem, a staff attorney with Rights4Girls, the organization that pushed for the legislation. As a result, she contends that they can’t consent to prostitution, while pimps threaten arrest to keep minors from running away.
“Incarceration of victims really gets in the way of getting these children on the path to healing that they need, because exploiters are telling children, ‘If you go to law enforcement, if you seek help, all they will do is arrest you,'” Kaleem states.
Research shows that of just over 1,000 human trafficking cases reported in California in 2016, about one in four had a minor involved. But the new law transfers the guilt away from these youths—and toward the traffickers or customers of the sex trade.
This issue impacts many demographic pockets of children and is frequently associated with the international drug trade, Kaleem added. There are over a dozen other states that have also passed similar types of laws.
Kaleem noted that agencies and law enforcement really don’t perceive these children as criminals. However, those that are trying to help have few options with such cases, believing that there is no alternative. Police officers often think that given the choice between leaving that young victim on the street or placing her under arrest, they would go for the arrest. The reason being that at least then they would know where the child was. With the child in the system, there was an opportunity for the family court to become involved.
But the new law gives these agencies and the police another alternative. However, Kaleem cautioned that this new alternative did come with complications, as many of the cases she sees come from the child welfare system. With that, caseworkers must now understand and apply these new protocols.
Sexual assault and emotional abuse can cause severe and lasting injuries. At the Cifarelli Law Firm, we make it our mission to hold the perpetrators of sexual abuse accountable for their actions. The compensation we have been able to obtain for our victims will never replace what was lost, but it will help in recovering towards a better life.
Call us today to arrange for a free consultation to discuss your situation with a professional and compassionate Cifarelli Law attorney at (949) 502-8600.