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Amy Paulin: Human Trafficking Has No Place in the State of New York.
After three of her bills to fight sex trafficking were signed by Governor Cuomo, Assemblymember Amy Paulin presents her words from the signing ceremony:
Right now, as I stand here, as we’re all together, there are girls on the streets of New York being raped 20 times a day, every day. Today, we don’t sit idle. We’re here to do something about our girls.
In 2007, New York State made history. We became the first state to specifically outlaw human trafficking. In 2008, we passed the Safe Harbor Act, recognizing that 14- and 15-year-olds were victims, not criminals or prostitutes. In 2014, we expanded Safe Harbor to 16- and 17-year-olds. In 2015, we passed the landmark law, the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act.
Today, we build on our legacy.
First, we’re expanding that landmark 2015 law. Because of a requirement in state law to prove force or coercion, prosecutors told us how difficult it was to convict traffickers on the most serious charges without re-traumatizing victims by forcing them to confront their captors in court.
Moreover, these emotionally vulnerable children had often been manipulated and threatened during their ordeals, further complicating the prosecutors’ hands.
Today, we are taking the need to prove force or coercion out of the law, strengthening our ability to put these horrible predators in prison.
Second, New York will become an innovator in discreetly providing information to victims about services available to them, and to help them escape their lives of captivity.
We worked closely with the hotel industry and advocates to come up with the idea to require that cards with a hotline number be placed in public restrooms, guest rooms, and near the public entrances. They will be small and discreet cards, so a victim may take one unnoticed and use it to call for help at a later time.
No other state is tackling this problem the way we are today, and we are very proud of that.
And finally, we’re making our court system better able to help victims and to prosecute traffickers.
Today, we take these next steps to hold predatory child sex traffickers accountable to the fullest extent of the law, and help our children who have been victimized.
I want to thank the Speaker, Carl Heastie, for his steadfast commitment and to my colleagues for making this a priority;
to my Senate partner, Andy Lanza;
to the District Attorneys’ offices – without you, we couldn’t have explained the case for this bill, nor could we have come up with the language to make it happen;
to the Hotel Association of New York City and the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association;
to the community of advocates, and to the survivors who are here. You’ve given us the inspiration and the courage to keep up this battle. I want to single out Dorchen Leidholt of Sanctuary for Families and Sonia Ossorio of NOW – New York for being my partners and for being my support system for every single bill we’ve been able to accomplish in New York;
to the Lieutenant Governor for her support, her commitment, her encouragement, and for being a spokesperson for women and girls throughout the State of New York;
and most of all, I want to thank the Governor. Throughout his tenure, he has made eradicating human trafficking a priority, and made sure New York is the number one state addressing this heinous crime against our children. Without his leadership, without his commitment, we would not be here today.