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Victim's plea Change New York law, charge the tra

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Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 Time: 6:37 AM
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Editor’s note: Lauren Hersh is New York Director of Equality Now and head of its Sex Trafficking program combatting violence against women and girls. She is a former prosecutor at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office which covers Brooklyn.

By Lauren Hersh, Special for CNN, New York

Three months ago, Ruth came into my life. Sixteen years and two weeks old,nike air max, Ruth is spunky and smart.

She loves Hello Kitty and iced coffee, listens to Alicia Keys and spends days planning her Sweet 16 outfit. Ruth wants to build schools in Africa.  Her contagious smile lights up a room. But, for years, the smile I have come to love was hidden.

Ruth is not her real name. She is a sexually exploited child. At 12, after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend, she met an older man who promised to love and care for her. Instead, he brutally beat her, repeatedly raped her and sold her for sex more times than she could count.

There is a common misconception that girls like Ruth choose to enter prostitution. This could not be further from the truth.

Sex traffickers like Ruth’s “ex-boyfriend” prey on the vulnerable for financial gain. They provide girls and women with the “love” they are yearning for and,nike sko, through coercion and manipulation, force them to make them money through prostitution.

Over the past four years, I have met many girls like Ruth; girls who the masses call “throw away kids”, “whores” or worse; girls who have been viciously abused by pimps and then re-victimized by a criminal justice system which targets the prostituted and fails to hold accountable the real perpetrators – the traffickers and sex buyers who fuel the demand.

In 2011, three times as many women and girls were arrested for prostitution in New York than pimps and buyers,nike free, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Later this month, in a comprehensive attempt to target the traffickers and sex buyers and provide necessary services for victims, the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) will be put in front of New York legislators.

The TVPJA seeks to eliminate the need to prove a minor sex trafficking victim was coerced into prostitution, align penalties for buying a child for sex with penalties for statutory rape and classify sex trafficking as a violent felony. This bill is urgently needed.

However,billige nike shox, legislative justice is only part of the solution. Sexually exploited girls, like Ruth,billige nike sko, also need to be given a voice in the advocacy process.

On a chilly day in March, we began Project IMPACT, an eight week leadership-through-storytelling journey at JCCA Gateways,billige nike free, a residential facility for youth who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation or domestic trafficking.

The project was designed to introduce survivors to the concept that sharing a personal story is a powerful advocacy technique that can shift societal perspective, change laws - and changes lives. The project also strives to help survivors understand that storytelling is a choice– the survivor gets to select if, when and how she wants to share her story.

On that first day, Ruth sat in our circle with other survivors, social workers from Gateways and activists from Equality Now and The Arts Effect NYC. Ruth’s arms were crossed. She remained quiet. Her blank stare was cold.

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