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Testimony: The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019

October 17, 2019

Executive Director Judith Sandalow and Supervising Attorney Naïké Savain testified on behalf of Children’s Law Center in opposition to B23-0318 the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019.

Some of the children and youth Children’s Law Center represents have been or are at risk of being trafficked or engage in survival sex to meet their basic needs. Through the testimony, they shared some of the lessons Children’s Law Center has learned from the experiences of youth involved in commercial sex. Beyond the obvious trauma children experience from being sexually exploited, they noted there are also significant long-term physical and mental health consequences.

Children’s Law Center acknowledges the important issues addressed in the bill and believes there is a lot of common ground.  Many of the goals of the legislation – improving police interaction with sex workers, addressing housing insecurity for sex workers, reducing the overall stigma and violence that sex workers face daily, furthering gender equity, removing barriers that prevent sex workers from reporting abuse, violence, and sex trafficking to law enforcement – are all goals Children’s Law Center supports.  Sex workers, especially Black, Brown, and LGBTQ sex workers, should have improved ways to keep themselves safe and healthy.  Children’s Law Center supports the decriminalization of the selling of sex, as we do not believe that sex workers should be further criminalized.

Unfortunately, they expanded, the bill will have very serious unintended consequences.  Children’s Law Center is concerned that the bill will increase child sex trafficking in the District, making it more difficult for law enforcement to enter properties where trafficked children are being held, and eliminating the safe harbor provision that requires the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to refer victims of child sex trafficking to appropriate services. Read the full testimony below.