Laughlin, Dush to Introduce Safe Harbor Legislation for Sexually Exploited Children

HARRISBURG – Sens. Dan Laughlin (R-49) and Cris Dush (R-25) today announced they will soon be introducing legislation to update existing “safe harbor laws” to address the gaps in current statute regarding the protection and support of minors who have been victims of sexual exploitation.

“We need to change how the law treats children who have been sexually exploited and implement provisions that seek to reverse the long-term impact on victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking,” said Laughlin. “Minors should not be charged with prostitution; these children should be recognized as victims and provided with the necessary support services to help them recover from their exploitation.”

“Our televisions, radios, newspapers and social media platforms are saturated with reports of sex trafficking rings on private islands and worldwide,” said Dush, the prime sponsor of Act 39 of 2023, which was recently signed into law to ensure sexually exploited child trafficking victims always have full access to appropriate services and support. “Unfortunately, the grim reality is that human trafficking is also occurring in our neighborhoods, sometimes as close as next door. Being aware of the statistics and horrors is useless without serious legislative action. I am glad to see Sen. Laughlin take up the mantle with his policy committee hearing on this issue and am grateful that I was approached by him to work together on fortifying our current safe harbor laws. I look forward to continuing to work with him to ensure these reforms are enacted.”

The proposed legislation will cover all criminal offenses related to the sexual exploitation of children, not just specific crimes. Using a broader scope will ensure that all victims receive the assistance and protection they need, regardless of the circumstances of their exploitation.

In the proposal, county agencies will have an essential role in improving coordination and response efforts. County agencies will help identify and assist sexually exploited children, which will strengthen the overall effectiveness of the program.

The plan will also seek to ensure the privacy and safety of children since confidentiality is paramount to protecting sexually exploited children from further harm.

Additionally, the proposal will look to create alternative interventions and support mechanisms for sexually exploited children; such victims should not be put into the juvenile justice system. We should be focused on addressing the underlying factors contributing to their exploitation to prevent further victimization.

These changes will create a system that better protects the rights and well-being of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.


Contact:           David Kozak (Sen. Laughlin)             717-787-8927
                        Ty McCauslin             (Sen. Dush)                 717-787-7084

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