We are analyzing statutes that the Shared Hope identified in its state report cards that relate to prosecuting buyers of commercial sex acts. Our narrow focus is to analyze whether the plain language of the statutes allows for the conviction of the buyers if they make only a mere offer or solicitation to buy sex with minors, rather than fully carrying out the agreement. During my research, I am identifying which states have effective statutes for this issue while also identifying which states need to amend their statutes to make them useful to prosecutors.
This project is eye-opening for me because I am learning how easy it is for a buyer of sex with a minor to slip through the cracks during prosecution of human trafficking. Indeed, the buyers should be held criminally responsible for their actions since they are participating in the trafficking scheme and are the driving force behind sex trafficking. It seems that it would be intuitive to convict the buyers since they are trying to have sex with a child. However, this is often not the case in some of the states. The lack of convictions on this issue demonstrates how important the language of laws is in targeting the specific types of perpetrators for which the law is designed. Words carry great weight, and now I am realizing that the weight can be a matter of imprisonment or freedom for both the perpetrators and the victims.