“Why is this important to you?” Mapping activist responses to Safe Harbor laws

If you’re listening to anything I say through Polaris’s social media channels, you’ve probably heard about Safe Harbor laws. Safe Harbor laws are a kind of law to combat human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking of people under 18, as well as other forms of commercial sexual exploitation of people under 18 which are not always understood to be sex trafficking. They do this by:

  1. Defining the minor involved in commercial sex as a victim, rather than a criminal. Victims have access to services outside of the criminal justice system which those being accused of a crime do not.
  2. Funding services for those minors. Minors who have been involved in commercial sex, whether survival sex (the gay teen who was kicked out of his house after coming out* who trades sex for a place to sleep) or sex trafficking (the girl “boyfriended” by a pimp and then forced into commercial sex), often need help. They might need shelter and food, they might need job training or support to finish high school and start college. They might need counseling for the PTSD some survivors suffer and a safe place to process their experiences. But each of these things–shelter, food, training, school, counseling, support–cost some kind of money, and so Safe Harbor laws provide it.

On January 11th we launched a petition asking people to support these laws in their states (there was a soft launch a week earlier, but the big launch was on Human Trafficking Awareness Day on the 11th). We got 5k signatures in under a dozen days, but what continues to warm my heart are the comments.

When someone signs a petition on Change.org, they have the option of filling out this box:

"Why is this important to you?" On Change.org

More than 1000 people filled out that box, and their responses run who whole political and emotional spectrum. I mapped them, redacting last names for privacy’s sake though Change.org provided them. You should check them out–see who’s signed in your area:

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I’m not going to pitch you super hard to sign the petition, but it’s what I’ll be spending the next 6 months of my life on, so might as well do it now.

*I wrote about why this is a discrete demographic here, but to summarize: “Between 20% and 40% of homeless youths in the United States identify as LGBT. Why? One study found 26% of LGBT youths (read: kids) are kicked out of their houses after coming out.”

Inspirational Quote:

In answer to the question “Why is this important to you,” Robin of Vancouver, WA says:

“I am a survivor and I have daughters. My experience and knowledge convicts me to do something!”

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