Federal Laws, Regulations and Recognition

Recently the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was amended by the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act (P.L. 115-424. 1/7/2019). The law amends a section to provide immunity from civil and criminal liability (it previously provided immunity from only prosecution) for people who make good-faith child abuse or neglect reports or who provide information or assistance, including medical evaluations or consultations, in connection with a report, investigation or legal intervention pursuant to a good-faith report of child abuse or neglect.25

The federal legislation addressing child abuse and neglect is CAPTA, originally enacted on January 31, 1995 (P.L. 93-247). The act has been amended multiple times, and in 2015 amended to include a child who is identified as a victim of sex trafficking or severe forms of trafficking in persons.25 Thus, CAPTA has recently expanded the categories of people who are deemed victims of trafficking. It has been determined that a child under the age of 18 is not considered to be involved in prostitution - there is no child prostitution - but those controlling the child are involved in human trafficking, child abuse and control of the minor.1,9

Dentists and healthcare professionals are mandated to report suspected child abuse.31 The recognition of child abuse is sometimes subtle and at other times quite recognizable by healthcare providers. Human trafficking may involve various age groups including children as young as seven or eight years old who are used for domestic work and groomed/seasoned for sex trade at a later time. Clues, signs and physical trauma may be visible in many cases, but healthcare workers who have not received adequate training may not recognize these signs as human trafficking1,2,8 or as child abuse.

Multiple forms of human trafficking have been identified even beyond what is known as sex-trafficking. Sex trafficking of minors is a form of child abuse, and human trafficking, in general, has various forms of criminality and abuse that are involved. Federal law 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1) makes it a crime when a person “recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means” a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act.35 Domestic sex trafficking and exploitation of children within the borders of the United States is specific and supported by these laws and does not require proof that force or coercion was used to secure the victims actions. This law is reinforced by the states. In other words, a child can’t be categorized as a willful participant in sex trafficking.35

The victims may be United States citizens, non-citizens, legal immigrants or illegal immigrants. The Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 gave protection to victims even if they were of illegal status, offering a “T visa.” At present, there are two types of visas-a U visa or a T visa. Both are in place to protect individuals who are victims of human trafficking with specific characteristics of the crimes. NYC Human Rights and Nolo are two good websites to visit regarding T and U Visas.23

The National Human Trafficking Hotline gathers statistics from phone calls, emails and online tip reports. The data is used to support victims and survivors and to combat all forms of trafficking. The data collected in 2018 (as of December 31st, 2018) reported 41,088 contacts to the organization during this time period. The reports are also logged by state as well; 10,949 cases were documented. Of reported cases, the highest numbers came from community members reporting an incident. Since most trafficking victims go undetected, the true numbers are really unknown at this point in time.12

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) is a federal statute which was passed into law in 2000. The Act ensures the protection of immigrants who were the victims of human trafficking. Under this legislation, the government (1) is obliged to prohibit forms of human trafficking, (2) should prescribe an adequate punishment for any act of human trafficking, and (3) should use all means at their disposal to eradicate human trafficking.13,14,19

According to the HHS, victims of human trafficking who are not United States citizens can receive help including immigration assistance. They are given the same rights as refugees. The benefits are already in place for United States residents and lawful permanent residents. Services involving healthcare, mental health, case management, legal assistance, education/job training, food, shelter, transportation and interpretation are all part of the services that are offered to victims.17