SA: Legislation would help victims exit sex trade

Hawaii legislation would help victims exit sex trade with $2,000 per month
By Dan Nakaso, Star-Advertiser, 2/14/22

“Everyone can agree that people who want to stop prostituting themselves should be able to do so immediately.” -Khara Jabola Carolus, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women. Photo contributed by Khara Jabola-Carolus.

“Everyone can agree that people who want to stop prostituting themselves should be able to do so immediately.” -Khara Jabola Carolus, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women. Photo contributed by Khara Jabola-Carolus.

Victims of sex trafficking in Hawaii would receive $2,000 a month to leave the life in what proponents call the first pilot project of its kind through a bill in the Legislature.

Senate Bill 3347 passed out of the Senate Committee on Human Services on Tuesday.

SB 3347 and House Bill 2463 would establish a one-year pilot program within the Department of Human Services to provide monthly income of $2,000 to people “who are verified victims of sex trafficking, or who are female or sexual and gender minority individuals seeking to exit the sex trade.”

“We would be the first in the nation to do this,” said Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women. “Everyone can agree that people who want to stop prostituting themselves should be able to do so immediately.”

State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D, Kalaeloa-­Waianae-Makaha) helped introduce SB 3347 and called the idea of paying victims $2,000 a month to escape sex trafficking “great.”

“Whatever we can do to help sex-trafficking victims is fantastic,” she said. “The whole reason they’re in the predicament they’re in is financial slavery, basically.”

SB 3347 and HB 2463 are among several bills intended to reduce sex trafficking in the islands but likely the most controversial and expensive.

“It’s a hot-button issue but this is common ground,” Jabola-Carolus said. “Whenever it’s a program for children, women or Native Hawaiians, those people have to fight for the money, and this is no different.”

She called the proposed $2,000-a-month payment out of the state’s general fund “the bare minimum to survive in Hawaii, where we all know it’s so expensive. That’s to cover food, utilities, a studio apartment. Some people might say that’s not fair and there might be an equity issue, but we’re talking about preventing sexual violence. … Conservatively, we could get 60 people off the street right off the bat.”

So far, there has been no testimony submitted either in support or opposition to the pilot program.

Other bills related to sex trafficking being discussed this session are:

SB 1347, which would require the state Department of Education “to offer training for teachers, educational officers, and school-based behavioral health specialists on sex trafficking prevention and response.”

SB 2557 and HB 2265, which would decriminalize “the act of engaging in, or agreeing or offering to engage in, sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee or anything of value. Authorizes civil claims to be made against a business, owner or operator of a transient accommodation, or other commercial entity that profits from sexual exploitation.” SB 2557 also passed out of the Senate Human Services Committee on Tuesday.

HB 1700, which would provide consistent funding for an emergency shelter for child sex-trafficking victims.

Victoria Roland was program director of the Hale Lanipolua Assessment Center shelter in Kailua and is currently program director for sex-trafficking victims at Susannah Welsey Community Centers, where she sees the trauma of victims who are overwhelmingly female and from all age groups.

“They are victimized by people buying and selling humans as property,” Roland said.

She called the proposed pilot program “truly innovative in a way that’s taking a different perspective because there are no strings attached. You do not have to be part of an investigation or part of a program. Those are all barriers.”

The number of victims likely grew during the past two years of the COVID- 19 pandemic as unemployment soared.

“Everyone was struggling with loss of work, unemployment, no income coming in,” Roland said.

Roland said she escaped a sex-trafficking scheme to turn her into a Las Vegas streetwalker as a new graduate out of Delaware State University. At separate part-time banking and retail jobs, Roland had no health care and was offered cash for sex from her bosses, she said.

Even when seeking medical care for injuries from a dog bite, Roland said her physician propositioned her for sex in exchange for treatment and antibiotics.

With several bills aimed at curbing a new generation of victims, Roland said, “The time is always right to put money into prevention.”

A survey of Hawaii sex-trafficking victims by the Commission on the Status of Women found that some were exploited as young as age 5 and as old as age 60, but mostly “our society is obsessed with young women,” Jabola-­Carolus said.

The average victim spends 13 years in the trade and tries to get out six times but typically has few options due to lack of finances.

“People don’t have the resume” to find legitimate employment, Jabola-­Carolus said. “How do you even get a job after 13 years as a prostitute?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: