The Honorable Russ Feingold
United States Senator
February 24, 2010
Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law
Hearing on "In Our Own Backyard: Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the United States"
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Statement of U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold
First, let me thank Chairman Durbin for holding this hearing on an issue of great and urgent
importance – protecting our nation's children from exploitation and prostitution. Many people
mistakenly think that child prostitution and child trafficking only occur in foreign countries. This
is not the case. We must do more to address the growing problem of children forced into
prostitution in this country.
Last year in Wisconsin a 39-year-old Milwaukee man was arrested and charged with recruiting at
least six young girls for prostitution with the help of his 20-year-old son. He posted partially
nude photos of the girls on Craigslist advertising "erotic services" in Wisconsin, Minnesota,
Illinois and Iowa. He had been engaged in this kind of activity for 20 years before he finally was
arrested and charged with fourteen federal criminal counts, including sex trafficking of children
and taking children across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.
Although it is fortunate that these girls were saved, there are many more children who will never
be located and who will never receive services to help them get back on their feet and out of the
grasp of their exploiters. According to the Department of Justice, child prostitution has become a
problem of epidemic proportions. Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of becoming
commercial sex workers. Unfortunately, those estimates may not accurately reflect just how
large this problem is, especially when you consider that many children living on the street --
runaways, throwaways, and cast-offs from the foster care system -- remain unaccounted for in
America. Left to fend for themselves, many of these young girls and boys quickly become
vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
We need to protect child victims of sexual exploitation by ensuring that they are not treated as
criminals. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act recognizes that sexually exploited
children are too young to consent to commercial sex, and it properly defines children as victims
of trafficking. At the state level, however, children are often being detained in the juvenile justice
system for prostitution or charges related to their exploitation. Rather than arresting child
victims, we should focus our efforts and law enforcement resources on arresting and prosecuting
the traffickers and buyers of children.
We also must continue to provide restorative care for victims. This year's budget includes a
significant increase in funding to assist trafficking victims, and for the first time since the
passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, the budget provides specific federal
funding to support U.S. citizens who are trafficking victims. This is a great first step, but I hope
as we move forward with the budget process for next year, Congress will ensure that funding is
available for both foreign national and U.S. citizen victims in need of assistance.
Finally, I want to applaud Secretary Clinton's decision to include the United States in the
Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report. I firmly believe that we must turn a
critical eye towards our own country's efforts to combat trafficking in order to ensure that the
U.S. is doing everything it possibly can to fight to put an end to these egregious crimes against
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding today's hearing. I look forward to supporting your
efforts to fight child prostitution and to better protect America's children.