The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council released its "Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States" study Wednesday calling for the development of collaborative, multisector responses to prevent, identify and respond to these abuses of children.
"No one sector can solve this problem on its own," said Jonathan Todres, associate professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law. "A joint effort that takes advantage of the skills and expertise of law enforcement, social services, health care professionals, educators, the private sector and others is what will ultimately ensure progress on this issue."
Todres served on the study committee, which was commissioned by the Department of Justice.
"There's a real urgency here," Todres told Reuters newswire on Sept. 26. "We need to recognize as a nation that these children are victims and survivors of violent crimes and abuse, and they should not be treated as criminals." To date, a small but growing number of states have enacted laws that divert exploited children away from prosecution toward services.
Strengthening the law is a key component of the committee's recommendations, as is the need for greater public awareness. The report also recommends that all professionals who interact with children be trained on how to identify and respond effectively to both child victims and others at risk of harm.
The report was issued as New York became the first state in the nation to begin creating a system of special courts for hearing these types of cases. In addition, in early September, a new Georgia law took effect, requiring a range of businesses to post hotline notices for human trafficking victims.
Todres said that this is a significant issue that affects communities across the nation, including in Georgia. He added, "Child sex trafficking is a serious crime. Yet it remains largely hidden, much like its young victims."