Position Statement – 2023
S.3171 (Cleare)/A.2528 (Hevesi)
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) supports the passage of S.3171 (Cleare) / A.2528 (Hevesi) which would amend the Penal Law to define the crime of sex trafficking of a child or vulnerable person and the crime of predatory sex trafficking.
This bill would add Penal Law §230.34(a), defining that a person is guilty of sex trafficking of a child or vulnerable person if that person intentionally advances or profits from the prostitution of another person and such person is a child or vulnerable person. Knowledge of the age of the child is not an element of this offense. A person is a “vulnerable person” when that person is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless. Sex trafficking of a child or vulnerable person would be a Class B felony.
Further, this bill adds Penal Law § 130.97, the crime of predatory sex trafficking, when a person being eighteen years of age or older, commits the crime of sex trafficking of a child or vulnerable adult. Predatory sex trafficking would be a Class A-II felony.
In the commercial sex trade, sexual assault is not just prevalent, it is ubiquitous. Sex trafficking survivors may even endure systemic rape and their bodies being sold to persons who rape them multiple times in one day. Victimization goes widely underreported or unreported due to traffickers, pimps, massage parlor owners, and sex buyers’ use of violence and threats, confiscation of identification and drugs, and alternating affection and abuse to silence and manipulate their victims. Additionally, the sex trade tends to prey on the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in our communities: women and girls, LGBTQ + population, foster home youth, undocumented persons, and those with mental disabilities. Individuals with disabilities are also uniquely and particularly vulnerable to trafficking because traffickers will often steal victims’ social security and disability benefits. The opportunity to steal government benefits provides an added incentive for traffickers to target persons with disabilities. This heinous crime must have severe consequences, and passage of this bill would send a message to those traffickers who exploit the most vulnerable in our communities.