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It’s Time for a National Legal Strategy to Defend Human Dignity

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Until now, there has been no voice in the courts and legislatures advocating for human dignity and against all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation. In the vacuum of a national legal strategy on these issues, pro-sexual exploitation lobbyists have stepped in to promote radical and damaging legislation and legal precedents promoting pornography, prostitution, sexually grooming children for abuse, increasing sex trafficking, and more.

Laws are meant to instruct citizens in virtue.

But, what are its lessons when . . .

  • laws against distribution of obscenity (hardcore pornography) are not enforced
  • men who buy a child for sex in 27 states can get away with it by simply saying they didn’t know the child was underage
  • predators are permitted to engage in explicit sexual conversations with children online
  • perpetrators of image-based sexual assaults (e.g., “upskirting” and “spycamming” and “revenge pornography”) remain unpunished because existing laws are insufficient to arrest them
  • communities lack the legal expertise to strictly regulate sexually-oriented businesses like strip clubs, illicit massage parlors, and so-called sexpresso-cafes
  • courts rule that online prostitution advertising platforms are immune from civil liability even when they knowingly engage in human trafficking,
  • sex buyers face less penalties if they had stolen a candy bar than if they purchase women and children for sex
  • the brutality of pimps and sex traffickers goes unchecked because prostitution is legalized?

In such circumstances, the lack of laws or failure to enforce existing laws licenses abuse, privileges the rights of the strong over the weak and vulnerable, affirms the notion of sexual entitlement and the dystopian vision of sex as a mere commodity, and proclaims that human dignity is cheap and disposable.

Against this backdrop, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) believed it imperative to establish a Law Center to stand as both a sentry and bulwark against the destructive individuals and entities that deny or which facilitate sexual abuse and exploitation.

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WHAT IS THE NATIONAL CENTER ON SEXUAL EXPLOITATION’S LAW CENTER?

At the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), we believe law is the greatest tool to defend human dignity against sex trafficking, pornography, child sexual abuse, and more. It sets social norms, punishes exploiters, and gives justice to survivors.

The NCOSE Law Center is an advocate to intervene in key, precedent-setting cases and speaks up in our state and federal legislatures to impact policy for those who have no voice.

The NCOSE Law Center empowers citizens to improve their states and communities through model legislation on issues like pornography, illicit massage parlors, combating the demand for sex trafficking and prostitution, and more.

The NCOSE Law Center also mentors and trains future lawyers and trains prosecutors to ensure a future generation of legal advocates who know how to best help victims and shape legislation that respects human safety and flourishing.

Threats & Opportunities

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Enforcing Obscenity Laws

Most people are shocked to discover that Federal law prohibits the distribution of obscene (hardcore) adult pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops, through the mail, and by common carrier.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld obscenity laws against First Amendment challenges, explaining that obscenity is not protected speech, similar to other forms of unprotected speech like blackmail, defamation, or child pornography.

Even so, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) refuses to enforce existing federal obscenity laws over fears that it will be unpopular.

Because obscenity laws have not been enforced, we have seen a dramatic rise in illegal pornography production and distribution in the last decade. The NCOSE Law Center is advocating in the Department of Justice to uphold the rule of law, and stop illegal pornography distribution.[MOU1]

A Childhood Free from Pornography

We believe children should be able to grow and learn about intimacy, relationships, and love without the devastating influence of pornography which eroticizes violence and warps neurological development.

That is why the NCOSE Law Center is pioneering tactics in order to:

  • Promote State Resolutions and Laws – the public health harms of pornography are well documented in academic research, yet the majority of America does not know about this data. That’s why the Law Center is promoting state resolutions and follow up legislation to declare pornography a public health crisis, to raise public awareness and to lay the groundwork for future legislation. As of the spring 2019, NCOSE’s resolution has already passed in 15 states.
  • Push Back Against Children Being Used in Pornography – the porn industry overturned 18 U.S. Code § 2257 so they have less regulations on age records, making it easier for them to illegally use a 16 or 15-year-old girl in mainstream pornography. The porn industry gloats that they spent 1 million dollars lobbying for this change and they are actively working to dismantle other laws, unchecked by opposition until now with the NCOSE Law Center as their foe.
  • Make Schools and Libraries Safe – unfortunately, most schools and libraries have poor or nonexistent filters to keep children from being exposed to pornography. The NCOSE Law Center is working to create model policies that citizens can introduce to protect children and safeguard the integrity of places of learning.
  • Protect Kids on Social Media – social media of all kinds are rife with pornography, in addition to child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, sextortion, predatory grooming, and more. The NCOSE Law Center is striving to fix these problems by advocating on Capitol Hill and in states to hold these companies to higher accountability in ratings and parental safety tools.

When most people think about ending sex trafficking and prostitution, they think about + rescuing the women and children being abused in these systems. And while these efforts are important, far fewer people think about ending the demand (i.e., going after and preventing the men who buy people for sex.)

It’s a simple truth: if people stopped buying sex today, sex trafficking would disappear.

Unfortunately, our nations laws are not adequately combating the demand for sex trafficking and prostitution. As a result, the cycle of abuse and harm continues year after year, and whenever one victim is saved, more are groomed and brought into the commercial sexual exploitation market to take her place. The way this movement has been operating with a focus mostly on victims, the issue of sex trafficking will never be solved. We want to stop that cycle.

That is why the NCOSE Law Center is pioneering a movement in the courts in order to:

  • Fight Child Sex Trafficking – right now, over half of U.S. states allow sex buyers to get off with a slap on the wrist when they purchase an underage person for sex if they simply say they “didn’t know” their age. The Law Center is striving to combat child sex trafficking by making it a national standard that purchasing a child for sex is a federal offense.
  • Increase Penalties on Sex Buyers – currently most states have light sentences for sex buyers that do nothing to deter them from purchasing another person again. The NCOSE Law Center is drafting model legislation to increase these penalties and hold them accountable.
  • Give Resources to Survivors – there are tragically few direct service and exit-strategy resources for victims of sex trafficking and prostitution in America, largely due to lack of funding. The NCOSE Law Center is working to provide better resources for survivors by creating model legislation that fines sexual exploiters and uses that money to help healing and recovery efforts.
  • A National Plan – the NCOSE Law Center will work with the Department of Justice and others to effect large scale national change to combat the demand for sex trafficking and prostitution.
  • Stop Websites from Facilitating Sex Trafficking – The NCOSE Law Center helped pass the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA-SESTA) in 2018. This bill holds websites accountable for knowingly facilitating online ads for sex trafficking and prostitution. Unfortunately, there is a lawsuit by the pro-prostitution lobby that seeks to overturn this legislation. In order to keep sex trafficking and prostitution from thriving on the mainstream internet, it is vital for the NCOSE Law Center to engage and defend this law.
  • Holding Businesses Accountable – The policies and practices of some major mainstream corporations (i.e., hotel, travel, social media industries) permit and turn a blind eye to sexual exploitation, enabling the insidious practice of buying and selling human beings for sex to flourish. NCOSE’s legal strategies will hold these companies accountable, forcing them to be part of the solution rather than a cog in the machine that keeps these practices going.
  • Developing Model Statutes to Block Internet Pornography – The Supreme Court has left open the question of whether filters might be mandated for the internet to protect children. The Law Center is aggressively researching technologies that would pass constitutional muster and shelter children from the internet’s harmful effects.

Child-on-child sexual abuse is on the rise with approximately 20% of all arrests for child sexual abuse being a child. Our courts and mental health systems are drastically ill-prepared to deal with this growing problem. Yet, it will only grow worse if society allows hardcore pornography to go unchecked as many youth simply act out on other children what they see adults doing in porn. We cannot treat these youth who are often victims themselves as we do adult perpetrators of child sexual abuse, yet that is what our current system does. NCOSE is here to advocate and update our legal system for all who are impacted by youth with harmful sexual behavior.

Sexually Oriented Businesses (SOBs) like strip clubs and illicit massage parlors are increasingly popping up in communities, large and small. Sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse, violence against women are all taking place within their walls and frequently spilling out into the rest of the community. Local communities are ill-prepared to address them, and the NCOSE Law Center is there to provide tactical and strategic support to keep communities free of these exploitive businesses.

Rights for victims of sexual assault are stripped away by corporate contracts companies hide in fine print when customers agree to their terms and services. While a number of major companies have such policies, one example is Massage Envy which has over 400 reports of sexual assault pending against them and their massage therapists, despite a clause that stops most reports from moving forward. Current terms often force customers to waive their right to bring claims or legal action against companies even when claims are alleged on intentional or negligent wrongdoing on part of company employees. NCOSE’s legal and advocacy teams will change this gross misconduct of justice.

Revenge pornography is a growing trend where individuals will share sexually explicit images or videos of someone in an effort to extort or publicly shame them. Our nation’s laws have not caught up to this trend, leaving, especially, many of our young people to endure extreme trauma, shame, and exploitation. The NCOSE Law Center will advocate for better legislation to protect victims.

“Upskirting” is a term for when someone takes pictures up or down another person’s clothes in public in order to see their private regions. Unbelievably, many states do not have laws against this growing trend, and one lawmaker is even on record saying that women do not have a right to privacy under their clothes if they go out in public. The NCOSE Law Center is here to update the laws and to ensure women’s right to privacy from this manifestation of sexual voyeurism.

Sexual harassment and assault in transportation is a growing problem that many victims and even employees think nothing can be done about. Passengers on planes, trains, and boats are often vulnerable to predators who get away with aggressive touching and comments, exposing themselves discreetly performing sex acts, or forcing nearby passengers to be exposed to hardcore pornography. NCOSE is harnessing the reports of victims to finally force legal and corporate policy updates to help all traveling to have a safe space free from sexual exploitation. VHS.

A Proven Track Record

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Senate Hearing Uncovers Sexploitation in Apps and Social Media

Statement by Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE  Washington, DC – On July 9, The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing with twelve senators and a packed room on the topic of “Protecting Innocence in a Digital World” in order to talk about the predatory targeting, grooming, sex trafficking, hardcore pornography, and more that makes…

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Press Statement: Historic Victory in the Fight to End Online Sex Trafficking

Washington, DC – The Senate today passed FOSTA-SESTA by a vote of 97-2. The legislative package included H.R. 1865 the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner, and an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mimi Walters which incorporated the vital reforms contained in S. 1693 the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), sponsored…

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Law Center Victory in Georgia v. Scott: “Talking Dirty” to a Child is Not Protected by the First Amendment

In January, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation submitted an amicus brief to the Georgia Supreme Court urging the court to uphold a statute criminalizing obscene Internet contact with minors. This statute is vital to protecting children from sexual predators in the digital age but was facing a First Amendment challenge. The American Center for Law…

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Montana Becomes 15th State to Recognize Public Health Harms of Porn

Montana just became the 15th state to pass a resolution recognizing the public health harms of pornography! Similar to tobacco in the 1950s, research & science have caught up with the harmful impacts of a pervasive industry. That is why the National Center on Sexual Exploitation authored the model resolution that formally recognizes the impacts…

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NCOSE’s Day on the Hill Leading to Legislative Progress and Victories!

For the last two years, the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit has included a “Day on the Hill” where leaders in the anti-exploitation movement descend on DC and visit every U.S. Congressional office with a message of abolition! The day begins with trainings on advocacy and public policy, then participants file onto buses…

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The Winning Team

Patrick A. Trueman, Esq.

President and Chief Executive Officer

Benjamin W. Bull, Esq.

Vice President & General Counsel

Dani Pinter

Legal Counsel for NCOSE Law Center

Eleanor Gaetan

Senior Advisor for Public Policy

Abigail Rinard

Law Clerk for NCOSE Law Center

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Law Center Updates

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The State of the Fight to End Sexual Exploitation in 2019

The fight to end sexual exploitation is massive and multifaceted, and 2019 has been a year filled with victories and building momentum that bodes well for the movement in 2020 and beyond. These powerful moments and momentum from 2019 would not have been possible without passionate advocates and allies being willing to join together to…

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Model Legislation Would Put Responsibility on Manufacturers to Make Phones Safer for Kids

Cars must have seatbelts, pill bottles must have child-safe caps, and cigarettes must have warning labels and cannot be sold to children. But for some reason virtually every pre-teen in America is given a smartphone–a device capable of communicating with people across the globe, accessing virtually any form of information, and taking and sending photos…

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When It Comes to Sex Trafficking, “Mistake of Age” Defenses Put Children at Risk

Adult men are purchasing children for sex in America every day. The least we can do is stop them from saying they did not know what they were doing using “mistake of age” defenses. States can pass legislation prohibiting traffickers and buyers from claiming they did not know, or were mistaken, about the age of…

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Child Sexual Abuse Images Are Flooding the Internet and (Almost) No One is Fighting Back

Child sexual abuse images, often referred to colloquially as “child pornography,” are illegal. The distribution of adult obscene pornography—including online—is illegal. The exploitation of child sexual abuse images and the porn industry are demonstrably and inextricably intertwined. Yet, even as NGOs and law enforcement continually report how badly the fight is being lost in the…

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Opponents of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) Give Arguments to D.C. Circuit

The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) was signed by the president on April 11, 2018, and has been an incredibly important piece of legislation aimed at stopping websites from facilitating and promoting prostitution and sex trafficking. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, along with survivors and other advocates, supported…

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Why The “Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act” Matters and Why NCOSE Endorsed It

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation supports the bipartisan “Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act.” Right now, America runs an annual report that ranks and analyzes how well countries are combating human trafficking. Unfortunately, the criteria for this report does not take efforts to combat demand (sex buying behavior) into account, which reduces the incentive for…

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