Lawmaker hosts conference aimed at ending human trafficking

Charles MegginsonHeadlines, Government

Human trafficking symposium

Left to right, Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford, who hosted the symposium; Dr. Marian Hatcher, survivor leader and policy consultant; Dr. Stephany Powell, National Center on Sexual Exploitation; Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel. (Delaware LIVE)

Lawmakers, state employees and law enforcement officers gathered at Legislative Hall Tuesday to learn how Delaware can better address the scourge of human trafficking.

Delaware is one of 39 states to receive an ‘F’ on the Shared Hope International Child and Youth Sex Trafficking Report Card, attendees learned Tuesday.

Areas the state performed the worst in include identification and response to victims, continuum of care, and prevention and training.

That alarming reality prompted Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford, and his legislative aide, Sara Poore, to host the three-day symposium focused on ending sexual exploitation.

Richardson said his first priority is conveying to victims of human trafficking that “there’s a way out,” he said.

“We’re going to see what we can do to encourage new laws that reduce the amount of human trafficking in Delaware,” Richardson told Delaware LIVE News. “I know — just from what I learned today — that policy changes can make a big difference.”

Human trafficking

The event attracted state employees and law enforcement officers from numerous agencies. (Delaware LIVE)

The event was led by nationally renowned experts Dr. Stephany Powell and Dr. Marian Hatcher.

Powell retired from the Los Angeles Police Department as a sergeant in charge of a vice unit. Today, she leads the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s law enforcement training and survivor services division.

Hatcher is a survivor leader and policy consultant who has worked as a civilian member of law enforcement for 15 years. She was awarded the 2016 Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service by President Barack Obama.

Much of the event focused on stopping sex buyers, or those who pay for sex, and prosecuting solicitors more harshly than sex workers. 

“Shifting law enforcement’s limited resources from arresting people in prostitution toward arresting sex buyers corrects this imbalance and holds those responsible for inflicting abuse and harm accountable,” a pamphlet distributed to attendees reads. 

Human trafficking

Dr. Stephany Powell addresses the audience at Legislative Hall. (Delaware LIVE)

Speakers also addressed the often overlooked reality that men and boys are common victims of sex trafficking, too.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation calls the issue a “long-neglected, festering national problem.”

“Because society frequently views sexual abuse and exploitation as phenomena exclusively affecting females, male victims of sexual trauma go unidentified, their pain and suffering unattended, their victimization unrecognized by the world around them,” the group writes. “This must stop.”

To learn more about sex trafficking in Delaware and what we can do to stop it, visit Shared Hope International and the Polaris Project.

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