Protections for Victims
In recognition of the fact that CSEC-involved youth are victims, Massachusetts law creates certain protections for them.
Save Harbor Provision: Protections from Criminal Prosecution:
When a sexually exploited youth is charged with common night walking or sexual conduct for a fee, there shall be a presumption that a petition for care and protection (C&P) or child requiring assistance (CRA) will be filed in the juvenile court. If the petition is allowed and the prosecutor does not object, the criminal prosecution will not go forward.
If the petition is allowed before arraignment, the arraignment shall be stayed indefinitely for DCF to provide services.
If the petition is allowed after arraignment, the youth shall be placed on pre-trial probation for DCF to provide services.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children (“CSEC”) is a form of child abuse.
If the youth fails to substantially comply with the requirement for services or the youth's welfare or safety so requires, the Court may restore the criminal proceedings to the docket for trial.
It is now an affirmative defense (i.e., will negate criminal liability if found credible) for a person charged with common night walking or sexual conduct for a fee that, while a human trafficking victim, they were under duress or coerced into committing the offenses charged.
- The name of a sexual exploitation or trafficking victim cannot be published, disseminated or otherwise disclosed to the public without court approval.
- Evidence of the reputation of a sexually exploited or trafficked victim's sexual conduct is protected by the "Rape Shield Law."
- Information transmitted in confidence by and between an exploitation victim and a caseworker is deemed a "confidential communication" and cannot be released without written consent or court approval.
- DCF is required to provide services for sexually exploited youth.
- If a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to believe a youth is being sexually exploited or is a human trafficking victim, they must file a 51A Report with DCF who must immediately refer the allegations to the local law enforcement authorities and the District Attorney.
- When a 51A Report is filed on a sexually exploited or trafficked child, a multidisciplinary team of professionals shall work together to determine whether the youth has been exploited and recommend a service plan. This plan may include, but shall not be limited to, shelter or placement, mental health and medical care needs, and other social services.
- DCF or another person may file a C&P petition when a sexually exploited youth declines services or is unable or unwilling to participate in services.
- A sexually exploited youth shall have access to an advocate who is trained to work with and advocate for the needs of sexually exploited youth.