Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and the Emergence of Safe Harbor Legislation: Implications for Policy and Practice

Ryan T. Shields, Elizabeth J. Letourneau

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Commercial sexual exploitation of children is an enduring social problem that has recently become the focus of numerous legislative initiatives. In particular, recent federal- and state-level legislation have sought to reclassify youth involved in commercial sexual exploitation as victims rather than as offenders. So-called Safe Harbor laws have been developed and centered on decriminalization of “juvenile prostitution.” In addition to or instead of decriminalization, Safe Harbor policies also include diversion, law enforcement training, and increased penalties for adults seeking sexual contact with minors. The purpose of this paper is to review the underlying rationale of Safe Harbor laws, examine specific policy responses currently enacted by the states, and consider the effects of policy variations. Directions for future research and policy are addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent psychiatry reports
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2015

Keywords

  • Commercial sexual exploitation of children
  • Juvenile prostitution
  • Safe harbor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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