I have been part of an effort in California to legislate a Megan’s Law update by including internet identifiers as part of the registration process. Last year two bills carefully drafted to address this singular issue (AB 755 – SB 57) were killed in committee, meaning they never made it to the floor of the respective houses for an up and down vote. It makes one wonder why California’s lawmakers prioritize the privacy of registered sex offenders ahead of the safety of children? The Alabama State Legislature has no such compunctions. This afternoon I testified on behalf of the Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, which will bridge the gap between Megan’s Law and the 21stCentury, and do more. Much more!
“Mr. Chairman and members of the committee I want to thank you for affording me the opportunity to talk about this very important issue. Sometimes, when we get our priorities mixed up we need a reality check. The Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act is that reality check.
Human trafficking is a criminal business that profits from enslaving people for sexual servitude and forced labor. It is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world today (second only to drug trafficking and tied with illegal arms). According to the Trafficking in Victims Protection Act, which was signed into law by President George Bush in 2000, human sex trafficking occurs when, ‘a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.’
Since 2000, we have learned that the U.S. is as much a supply country as it is a demand country. In fact, we are supplying much of our own demand. Every year between 1.6 and 2.8 million children run away annually in the U.S., half of those runaways are girls. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution or pornography. The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14. For boys, the entry age is 11-13. These kids are victims of human trafficking and each and every one is somebody’s child.
We glamorize pimp culture in music, on TV and at the movies. We create pimp celebrities and legitimize them in mainstream media. We photograph pimps at Players Balls and marvel at their ostentatious displays of wealth when we should be putting them in prison. Pimp-controlled commercial sexual exploitation of children is linked to escort and massage services, private dancing, drink and photographic clubs, major sporting and recreational events, major cultural events, conventions and tourist destination.
At the same time we criminalize kids who find themselves under the control of pimps. These kids are often portrayed as criminals, drug addled crack whores who are incarcerated rather than assisted once law enforcement brings them in off of the street. These kids are not criminals, they are victims. Many of them are missing. Many, but not all have run away or are throwaway children.
It is not so “Hard Out There for a Pimp”. Pimps are human traffickers and should be prosecuted as such. Under the Alabamians for Sexual Exploitation Act pimps will be prosecuted, imprisoned and forced to register as sex offenders. They will pay fines that will fund victim services for the children they have exploited.
But wait, there’s more. Sex offender registration and community notification, otherwise known as Megan’s Law was adopted by all 50-states in the late 90’s. Megan’s Law is based on the premise that convicted sex offenders pose a threat to society and that the public deserves to know when they are in the community. When Megan’s Law was enacted the Internet was not the ubiquitous presence that it is today. The Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act will also allow Alabama to bridge Megan’s Law into the 21st Century.
We know who the registered sex offenders are in our neighborhoods and towns, but not in our virtual, online communities. The Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act requires registered sex offenders to provide Internet email addresses, social networking profiles and other online identifiers so that social networking sites can scour relevant profiles from their online communities.
The concept of convicted sex offenders including their Internet identifiers as a component of the sex offender registration process was successfully legislated in New York in 2008 and has thus far been responsible for removing more than 24,000 sex offender profiles from social networking sites.