My main project this semester for the Center was working on the Protected Innocence Challenge in conjunction with Shared Hope. Shared Hope International is an organization focused on eradicating sex trafficking. Their mission is “to prevent the conditions that foster sex trafficking, restore victims of sex slavery, and bring justice to vulnerable women and children.” The Protected Innocence Challenge is a specific project designed to equip advocates and bring accountability to states by examining the sufficiency of child sex trafficking laws. This is done by analyzing the laws of each state and recommending ways to improve upon that law. My project for the semester was to ensure that the analysis and recommendations charts for each state were current for this year since the goal is that every year states enact new laws to protect children. I worked with another Center student staff member to comb through each chart and compare it to the updated law. Once approved, these updated charts will be used by Shared Hope to further equip advocates in individual states.
This semester I also worked on another project with Shared that Hope focused on their advocacy in Oregon. Shared Hope supported a bill in Oregon that was designed to protect sex trafficking victims from the trauma of testifying by creating a hearsay exception. The exception would allow prosecutors to introduce emails, texts, and other non-testimonial out-of-court statements made by the victim who is unwilling or unable to testify. For this project, I researched the policy behind requiring unavailability of a witness before hearsay exceptions may be used. I researched and found specific cases that stated why exceptions to the hearsay rules were allowed and the purpose behind them. This research was used to support Shared Hope’s argument that an exception for a trafficking victim is within the overall purpose of allowing exceptions and is consistent with past case precedent.
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Both of these Shared Hope projects that I worked on this semester were exciting because there was such an obvious immediate effect of the Center’s work. Though difficult and tedious at times to comb through the Protected Innocence Challenge charts and research hearsay case law in Oregon, the resulting product was worth it to be a small part of the work that Shared Hope is doing to eradicate sex trafficking.