Earlier this month survivors of sex trafficking, distinguished faith leaders and advocates against sex trafficking gathered in front of the Harlem State Office building on 125th Street, demanding changes to New York’s current law on sex trafficking.

New York requires victims of sex crimes to prove they were coerced. In many cases, victims are preteens, and this process can be traumatic, as they are forced to relive the experience in a court of law. New York is one of two states that currently requires prosecutors to prove coercion; the other state is Alabama.

Currently, New York is listed as one of the top three states for human trafficking and sex trafficking because of easy access to international ports and a high undocumented immigrant population, according to humantrafficking.org.

Last week’s speakers included the Rev. Dr. Que English, CEO/president of Not on My Watch Inc.; Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun; the Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, senior minister, Riverside Church; and Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, senior rabbi, Central Synagogue, as well as parents of victims.

All had the common goal of getting bill A. 6823-B, sponsored by Assembly Member Amy Paulin, passed. This bill would create an affirmative defense for sex trafficking victims 19 and younger.

English, whose organization fights for victims of color in the sex trafficking industry, said it’s imperative that bill is passed.

“Right now our children are being re-victimized because of the need to prove they have been coerced into trafficking,” he said. “As a result, we lost out on the perpetrators, the serial rapists, because they are not taken into court [and] because they are not taken into court, they continue the cycle.”

According to English, the average age range of sex trafficking victims in New York City is 11 to 15, and the victims are mostly Black and Brown girls.

A parent identified only as Mrs. Jonesy warned other parents to watch for potential signs of danger.

“Parents need to do a couple of things,” said Jonesy. “You should really be careful and leery of new friendships. I used to be an advocate for new friendships. I am no longer an advocate of new friendships. New friendships could lead to being recruited by sex traffickers or other people’s family members.”

She stressed the need for watching over children’s social media as well.

“Every time a child gets a like for a post, it’s not always by someone with good intentions,” she said. “It could be liked by someone who is just watching you.”

Bill A. 6823-B has 70 sponsors. Not on My Watch is offering buses to Albany for those interested in making a change. You can register and find more information at https://csta-albany0518.eventbrite.com.