ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking - USA)

Protecting Sexually-Exploited Children from Criminalization in the U.S.


To support ECPAT’s work and protect sexually-exploited children across America, our partner ECPAT-USA, the U.S. branch of an international network working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and WITNESS co-produced a 21 minute advocacy video. The film, "What I Have Been Through Is Not Who I Am," brings the voices of exploited and forgotten children, adult survivors, law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the country to the attention of our state and federal legislators.


The film was launched on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, January 11, 2012. (Read more in this press release.) It exposes the breadth of the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the U.S. by showing how the current system has repeatedly failed these children. And more importantly, the film highlights the need for more “safe harbor” laws, one critical part of the solution needed to break this cycle and give our children hope. Ultimately, this campaign will force us to come to terms with this reality and the legal and moral imperatives each of us has to protect these children.


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  • If asked, what is the number one destination for Americans seeking to buy sex with children, would most people answer Thailand? Cambodia? Vietnam? The United States? Someplace else? If they chose the United States they would be right.

    Across the U.S., up to 300,000 children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and this problem is growing. Today, more and more men from all walks of life, seeking to sexually exploit children, go online to take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet.

    Additionally, more gangs are expanding into the trafficking of people, especially the young, along with the trafficking of drugs. To catalyze change now, we must reverse both how we see children and our laws. One vital step we must take to stop criminalizing these exploited children is to recognize this as an extreme form of child abuse and a grave human rights violation.

    Most states allow the justice system to treat trafficked children as criminal offenders rather than giving them the support and protection they need as victims. Currently, only four states have changed their approach by passing “safe harbor” laws. These laws require that children caught in the sex trade industry be referred for protective services instead of prosecuted. This video advocacy campaign supports ECPAT-USA in its work to get strong, protective “safe harbor” legislation passed in the rest of the states.

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