Rep. Wagner Statement on the Passage of HR 285, the SAVE Act

Jan 27, 2015 | Press Release

Congresswoman Ann Wagner released the following statement on the passage of H.R. 285, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act:

“Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act, which I authored. For too long, the federal government hasn’t done enough to combat the spread of sex trafficking. The Department of Justice reports that in sex trafficking cases involving underage girls, over 75% of transactions are conducted through the internet. The SAVE Act amends the federal criminal code to allow local law enforcement to prosecute those who knowingly profit from online advertisements that exploit the victims of sex trafficking.

“According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 300,000 American youth are at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking and the average age of these young women is between 12 and 14 years old. These statistics are unacceptable and today the House has acted to give law enforcement the tools they need to address this unthinkable crime. In working to pass this bill and strengthen our criminal code, I have had the opportunity to meet with dozens of survivors and learn more about their struggle against the horrors of modern day slavery. It has been a great privilege to meet with these survivors, hear their stories and fight on their behalf. I am confident that under the new Senate Leadership, this bill will finally be considered in the Senate and ultimately signed into law.”

Background on the SAVE Act

H.R. 285- the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act of 2015
Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-02)

The Issue: Human Trafficking
Modern-day slavery exists right here in the United States. Sexual predators can browse advertisements and have child prostitutes sent to their hotel rooms as easily as if they were ordering a pizza.

General Figures on Human Trafficking in the United States:

  • Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States. (United Nations)
  • Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States. (U.S.Department of Justice)
  • The average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the United States is 13-14 years old. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and the average pimp has 4 to 6 girls. (U.S. Justice Department, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

H.R. 285- the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act

  • H.R. 285, the SAVE Act seeks to criminalize the advertisement of commercial sex acts with minors and victims of human trafficking.
  • The SAVE Act adds advertising to the types of conduct that constitute sex trafficking.
  • H.R. 285 would amend Section 1591 of the Federal Criminal Code, inserting “advertises” into the list of conduct that constitute the crime of federal sex trafficking.
  • The language of H.R. 285 has been carefully crafted to ensure that no innocent or collateral actors are unreasonably impacted.
    • The mens rea standard (the requisite criminal intent) necessary to be found guilty of the crime is “knowingly”; i.e. a prosecutor must prove to a jury that the defendant knew that the advertisement they were distributing would lead to sex trafficking.
    • This high burden is intended to ensure that those whose services are indirectly (or without their knowledge or consent) used by traffickers will not be held criminally liable.
  • H.R. 285 does not amend or erode the immunities contained in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
  • This legislation prohibits ONLY those advertisements that the government can prove actually offer sex with either:
    • 1. A child or
    • 2. An adult who is involved due to force, fraud or coercion (i.e. trafficking victim).
  • There is well-established precedent for Congress to criminalize the advertising of illegal goods or services, including advertising of child pornography, weapons of mass destruction, illegal narcotics and prescription controlled substances, and animal fighting ventures.