Sen. Pappas recognized for work on Safe Harbors Initiative
State Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, recently received a Special Recognition Award at the annual Human Rights Awards Dinner for her work on the Safe Harbors Initiative. The safe harbors law, chief-authored by Sen. Pappas and included in the 2011 Public Safety Budget Bill, changed how Minnesota responds to sexual exploitation of children.
“Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children is not new to Minnesota and it affects communities throughout the state – not just the Twin Cities metro area,” said Sen. Pappas. “The average age of a child lured into sexual exploitation is between 11 and 14 years old, and until the passage of the safe harbors law last year, Minnesota defined children engaging in prostitution as both sex trafficking victims and juvenile delinquents.”
The safe harbors law provides that a juvenile under the age of 16 cannot be prosecuted for committing a prostitution offense under the delinquency code. These juveniles and others now fall under the definition of “sexually exploited youth” as children in need of protection or services.
The new law also included the definition of sexually exploited youth in Minnesota’s child protection code, created a mandatory first-time diversion for any 16 or 17 year old who has been exploited in prostitution, and increased penalties on adult patrons or “johns.”
The Human Rights Awards Dinner is held annually to honor individuals who have made a significant contribution to The Advocates’ human rights work and to the human rights movement locally and globally. The Advocates also recognized State Rep. Steve Smith, R-Mound, and the many partners who worked the safe harbors initiative, including ECPAT-USA, The Family Partnership, Breaking Free, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, and others in the law enforcement community.
For more information, Sen. Pappas may be contacted at (651) 296-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.