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Michigan gets a B for Human Trafficking

Mariano Avila (shot of Shared Hope Intl. website)

Last year, Michigan failed Shared Hope International’s human rights report card. After looking at 41 different aspects of the law, Shared Hope International gave Michigan a B this year for improving laws protecting children and minors from sex trafficking.

“Previously the law didn’t allow buyers to be charged with the crime of human trafficking. This year because of laws that were strengthened the human trafficking law can apply to buyers.”

That was Taryn Offenbacher, communications director for shared hope. She says as of this year, those who buy sex and sexual acts from children can also be prosecuted for commercial sexual exploitation of children. But there’s room for improvement for Michigan. As any honor student could tell you, there’s a lot of work between a B and an A.

“The victims who are 16 and 17 years old remain subject to arrest and possible criminalization for prostitution offenses.”

Offenbacher says by Criminalizing 16 and 17 year olds Michigan is not in line either with the federal government or with several other states. More importantly, it sends the message that after 15 years old, this population is somehow no longer a victim of sex trafficking.

“So we really need to crack down on that so that the 16 and 17-year-old victims have the services and the justice that they rightly deserve.”

Louisiana got the highest score of all an A with nearly 100%. But even a perfect score wouldn’t mean the state has addressed the issue. Offenbacher says the report card is merely the baseline of what’s necessary to effectively combat sexual trafficking of children and minors. 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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