(The Center Square) – A nonprofit organization that exists to prevent sex trafficking and bring justice to victims says Illinois must improve its efforts.
Shared Hope International’s report cards are aimed at improving legislation to protect child and youth sex trafficking survivors. The report cards are used to press for a national standard of victim-centered justice, which can be achieved only if all states are actively working to develop and implement robust protections and just responses to children and youth who have experienced trafficking.
Shared Hope has produced the report cards and state analyses annually since 2011 as a tool to assist public policy activists and state elected officials in developing and advocating for better laws to support sex trafficking survivors.
“The goal in 2011 when we first started the report cards was because there was a real gap between what existed in laws at the federal level and what existed at the state level,” Christine Raino, senior director of Public Policy at Shared Hope, told The Center Square.
Illinois was one of several states to receive an “F” grade for its efforts, including a poor score in the category of identification of and response to victims. Illinois also received a poor grade in prevention and training in the area for juvenile justice agencies, law enforcement, prosecutors and school personnel.
The organization said it recognizes a range of policy, practice, and cultural responses to sex trafficking victims in each state. The report cards evaluate only statutes and use 40 policy goals in six issue areas in its grading system.
The top three states for their robust protections and just responses to children and youth who have experienced trafficking are Tennessee, Florida and Minnesota.
“We applaud the progress that states have made in recent years,” Shared Hope Founder and President Linda Smith said. “At the same time, many states continue to struggle in their legislative efforts. This creates a wild patchwork of statutes across the country, with the number and quality of legal protections and responses literally all over the map.”