Louisiana has quickly become a leading state in the war against human trafficking. State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, has been on the front lines by telling the human trafficking story, sponsoring anti-trafficking legislation and helping victims recover from its effects.
Johns won another victory this week when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments that legislation by Johns that enforces an age limit of 21 for erotic dancers in bars and nightclubs should be blocked. The senator's goal is to curb the spread of human trafficking of juveniles that takes place at some of those entertainment venues.
Gov. John Bel Edwards this week announced that Louisiana has been awarded a $1.2 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime. The goal is to improve the outcomes for child victims of human trafficking.
Louisiana is one of only seven states to receive the funding since 2015. In 2016, Shared Hope International ranked Louisiana No. 1 in the nation for its anti-trafficking laws. The state held a series of nine regional symposiums from November 2017 through March 2018.
During those symposiums, it was revealed that child sex trafficking victims come primarily from two populations. The runaway population is caused by sexual or physical abuse in the home, poverty or a combination of the two. The second population is the child in the home trafficked by family members or caregivers in order to get money for drugs.
Edwards and his wife Donna have become active in combating human trafficking. The governor said over the last several years thousands of Louisiana citizens have been identified as either confirmed or prospective victims of human sex or labor trafficking.
The Department of Children and Family Services in its February 2018 annual report to the Legislature said there were 681 confirmed or prospective victims of human trafficking in Louisiana. Of the reported victims, 356 (52 percent) were identified as juveniles, which was a 77 percent increase over the previous year.
"The saddest piece of data given was that 72 of those sex trafficking juvenile victims were ages 12 and under," Edwards said in his news release.
Our thanks to everyone involved in this anti-human trafficking effort, particularly for the emphasis they put on restoring the lives of those who have been directly impacted.