NYS Seal For Immediate Release:
June 19, 2008


Assembly Passes 'Safe Harbour' Legislation

Silver: Long Awaited Measure Provides Critical Protections and Services
For Sexually Exploited Youth

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Children and Families Committee Chair William Scarborough today announced Assembly passage of legislation aimed at providing critical services for the rising number of youth who suffer sexual exploitation. It has been reported that the number of youth victimized by the sex trade is on the rise and that these youth are often as young as eleven and twelve years old.

"Child victimization is one of the most abhorrent acts that could ever be committed. Far too many children suffer at the hands of adults. The stigma and scars left behind are immeasurable. This legislation takes important steps towards ensuring that the children who have been steered into a life of prostitution through exploitation and abuse receive treatment, services and rehabilitation instead of incarceration and a one way ticket back to a life of abuse," said Silver.

Noting the lack of appropriate services in the juvenile justice system, Scarborough said, "Sexually exploited youth deserve the protection and services of family court through processes in place for persons in need of supervision (PINS), including diversion, crisis intervention, counseling and emergency and long-term housing services."

"The most profitable illegal activities in the world are the trafficking of drugs and weapons, and the sexual exploitation of young women and girls. It's scandalous that so many young people have fallen victim to sexual abuse and exploitation. We must assist these victims and reduce the demand for prostitution. We have taken a huge step toward achieving that by passing the Safe Harbour Act, and I commend Assemblyman Scarborough and others who have supported this important bill," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx).

Under current law, New York State has sought to prosecute sexually exploited youth as hardened criminals. The lawmakers noted that since the overwhelming majority of these youths have a history of psychological, physical or sexual abuse as younger children and many have been raised in poverty, simply arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating them as criminals did little more than re-traumatize survivors of sexual exploitation.

The lawmakers noted the package was the direct result of a series of statewide public hearings and roundtables conducted by the Assembly committees on Children and Families and Oversight, Analysis and Investigation.

A.5258-C, sponsored by Scarborough, would define sexually exploited children as someone under the age of 18 who may be subject to sexual exploitation because they engaged or agreed or offered to engage in sexual conduct in return for a fee, food, clothing or a place to stay. The youth would also be defined as sexually exploited if he or she has stripped, been filmed doing sexual acts, traded sex for drugs or found guilty of loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.

"Assemblymember Scarborough has been a tireless advocate in his efforts to protect sexually exploited children. The passage by the Assembly of Safe Harbour For Exploited Children Act today is a recognition that domestically trafficked children deserve to be protected by New York State, and now will receive the services they so desperately need," said Attorney Katherine Mullen of The Legal Aid Society.

"The New York City Bar Association applauds Assembly Member Scarborough and Senator Volker for reaching a long sought agreement on legislation that will protect the health and well being of sexually exploited children. The Safe Harbour For Exploited Children Act offers a workable balance among competing interests and goes a long way towards delivering the right message to sexually exploited youth, i.e., that they are not criminals and deserve a real chance at being helped," said Jayne Bigelsen , New York City Bar Association.

"The Legislature should be commended for passing this groundbreaking legislation. The Safe Harbor Act will help ensure that sexually exploited children will no longer be treated as criminals and will instead get the help and support they need to rebuild their lives," said Mishi Faruqee, Director of Youth Justice Programs at the Children's Defense Fund New York.