Rights4Girls continues to be a leading voice on safety and justice for young women and girls. Our advocacy and programs have received national attention with our work being featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, ABC News, NBC News, NPR, PBS NewsHour, The Boston Globe, among other outlets. For more, see our achievements below.
SUCCEEDED IN PASSING THE EQUALITY MODEL IN THE UNITED STATES
R4G, together with our survivor partners and allies, succeeded in helping Maine become the first U.S. state to adopt the Equality Model— a partial decriminalization framework that protects sex trade survivors from arrest and criminalization while continuing to hold accountable their exploiters. R4G worked to develop and pass both An Act to Reduce Commercial Sexual Exploitation, which repeals the crime of engaging in prostitution for individuals in the sex trade, and An Act to Provide Remedies for Survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, which seals records of prostitution convictions for sex trade survivors. By signing these bills into law, Governor Janet Mills helped create the partial decriminalization framework known as the Equality Model, which is the prevailing global policy approach to reforming the commercial sex trade and reducing sexual exploitation. As a result, Maine becomes the first state to officially recognize that no one should be punished for their own exploitation!
PASSED MAJOR YOUTH JUSTICE REFORM LEGISLATION IN ILLINOIS
R4G worked to develop and pass the Prevent Unfair Sentencing of Youth Act, legislation that allows judges to consider a child victim’s trauma history when making sentencing decisions in cases where children are accused of harming their abusers. Governor Pritzker signed this legislation into law in June, making Illinois the 4th state in the country to pass such legislation and pushing us closer to ending the abuse to prison pipeline for child victims of crime!
SAFE HARBOR LAW PASSED IN VIRGINIA
R4G and our partners celebrated the Governor’s signing of SB 1292, the Commonwealth’s first safe harbor law protecting child trafficking victims from criminalization. The two-year pilot will stop the arrest of sex trafficking survivors, reduce the demand for commercial sex, and establish high-quality education, employment opportunities, and life skills training for survivors.
REPORT RELEASE: CRIMINALIZED SURVIVORS
Rights4Girls is proud to release our new report Criminalized Survivors: Today’s Abuse to Prison Pipeline for Girls, together with the Georgetown Law Initiative on Gender Justice & Opportunity. The report examines where the pipeline is today for girls in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, and the pandemic— and finds that we are not just allowing girls to fall through the cracks— we are still actively punishing survivors, rather than helping them support and heal. Our report highlights three new and urgent pathways for girls into the legal system and calls for systemic change to stop the criminalization and re-victimization of survivors.
CRITICAL FEDERAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING LAWS REAUTHORIZED
Signed by the President and reauthorized during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the Trafficking Victims Prevention & Protection Reauthorization Act and the Abolish Trafficking Reauthorization Act together provide vital resources and support to survivors of sex and labor trafficking while updating the law to address key gaps in the field.
R4G HOSTS NATIONAL CONVENING & ADVOCACY DAY IN DC
Rights4Girls brought together close to 100 partners and allies, including more than 30 survivor leaders from 27 states for a two-day convening to strategize and discuss tools for preventing sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Participants attended a Capitol Hill briefing followed by Hill visits with Members of Congress before attending our opening plenary at Vital Voices. Day 2 was packed with a series of panels and workshops focused on key aspects of sex trade policy advocacy, including innovative tools to help implement survivor-centered sex trade reform.
SPEAK OUT ACT SIGNED INTO LAW
The President signed the bipartisan SPEAK OUT Act into law which will go a long way in protecting survivors in the workplace. Going forward, the legislation will prohibit the enforcement of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and non-disparagement clauses between employers and employees that keep survivors from speaking out and sharing their truth.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR CHILD TRAFFICKING VICTIMS ELIMINATED
President Biden signed the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act into law which provides vital protections for victims of child sex trafficking and exploitation. Critically, the legislation eliminates the statute of limitations for child victims of human trafficking crimes or federal sex offenses to file a civil action to recover damages.
R4G CELEBRATES VAWA PASSAGE AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Rights4Girls was honored to be invited to the White House to celebrate the reauthorization and passage of the Violence Against Women Act. The legislation, which includes significant funding for survivors, service providers, and prevention efforts, critically, restores tribal jurisdiction over crimes of child violence, sexual violence, sex trafficking, and stalking.
ENDING FORCED ARBITRATION LAW ENACTED
Success! The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act was signed into law. This bipartisan legislation prohibits employers from forcing employees to settle sexual misconduct claims in closed-door arbitration venues that typically favor harm doers. Instead, workers can choose to sue in court with their own legal counsel, which protects employees.
CHILD VICTIM WITNESS MATERIALS RELEASED
Rights4Girls was proud to contribute to these child victim witness support materials from the Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) designed to better support child trafficking survivors and child victim witnesses in the court system. Unlike most other child victims and witnesses, trafficking survivors often have different roles within the legal system, including sometimes as a defendant in a criminal case or as a victim witness. It is therefore vital that these youth understand their rights and the different court processes and intricacies. This series of graphic novels are designed to support child and youth victims interacting with the justice system on a range of issues.
REPORT RELEASE: NATIONAL POLICY PLATFORM FOR MARGINALIZED GIRLS
R4G is thrilled to announce the release of the National Policy Platform: Centering Girls, Young Women, and Gender-Expansive Young People— a new report from the Girls at the Margin Alliance highlighting the systemic harms experienced by girls and offering solutions so that our girls and gender-expansive young people may lead full and complete lives. Rights4Girls’ is a proud co-author of this pivotal resource and co-founder of the Girls at the Margin Alliance— an affiliation of local, state, and national organizations and advocates working across systems to address the root causes of the complex issues confronting marginalized girls and young women. The report offers insight and policy recommendations across nine core areas including, child welfare, sex trafficking, gender violence, education, immigration, pregnant and parenting youth, the legal system, runaway and homeless youth, and health and healing.
I AM VANESSA GUILLEN ACT SIGNED INTO LAW
The I am Vanessa Guillen Act was signed into law. The landmark legislation puts forward a number of significant changes to how the military handles sexual assault cases going forward, including taking the prosecution of all sex crimes in the military away from the control of the military commander in favor of qualified and independent attorneys who will have the sole authority for charging decisions in such cases.
R4G EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HONORED AS ONE OF 21 LEADERS OF THE 21ST CENTURY
Rights4Girls Executive Director, Yasmin Vafa was honored by Womens eNews as one of their 21 Leaders for the 21st Century alongside such powerful women leaders across the country dedicated to advancing the cause of women and girls. Other leaders included White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and past awardees include Eve Ensler and Patrisse Cullours.
VOCA FIX ACT SIGNED INTO LAW
President Biden signed the VOCA Fix Act into law securing urgently needed services and support to millions of survivors across the nation. Significantly, the law secures billions in funding for victim services and reflects bipartisan support for survivors, advocates, and programs throughout the country.
R4G EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HONORED WITH BEACON OF HOPE AWARD
In June, our Executive Director Yasmin Vafa was honored with the Beacon of Hope Award from My Life My Choice, a survivor-led organization serving trafficked and exploited children. Past recipients of the award include Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey. We are grateful to receive this honor and value our continued partnership with such an extraordinary organization making such an important impact.
R4G PRESENTS AT THE SKOLL WORLD FORUM
Rights4Girls was thrilled to be selected to present at this year’s Skoll World Forum! Our session, No Gender Justice Without Racial Justice: Ending the Abuse to Prison Pipeline, explored the importance of intersectionality with respect to both violence prevention and criminal justice reform.
NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE RELEASES NEW REPORT
Rights4Girls is proud to serve on the National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth where we recently released our new report, Best Practices and Recommendations for States. The report, which contains 127 recommendations across 12 core areas, provides resources and guidelines for states to combat the sex trafficking of children and youth.
CHILDREN RELEASED FROM DETENTION
Succeeded in obtaining the release of almost all detained children from DC’s juvenile detention centers through our advocacy with the Youth Justice Project (YJP) coalition. Incarcerated youth were at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and subject to harmful conditions of confinement that exacerbated their trauma.
REPORT RELEASE ON THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON MARGINALIZED GIRLS
Released through our Girls at the Margin National Alliance, Rights4Girls co-authored this report outlining the challenges faced by girls, young women, and gender-expansive young people due to the pandemic and offered our recommendations to better support girls during the crisis.
END NETWORK ABUSE ACT SIGNED INTO LAW
The END Network Abuse Act became law helping to stem the proliferation of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) shared on Department of Defense computers by improving the tools necessary to respond to online child abuse and to connect survivors to services.
LAUNCH OF THE DC GIRLS COALITION
Rights4Girls together with our partners Black Swan Academy, launched the DC Girls’ Coalition (DCGC), an alliance of youth-serving and advocacy organizations and young people dedicated to elevating and amplifying the voices of DC girls, young women, femmes, non-conforming and young women/girls of color of trans experience. Comprised of both a policy arm as well as a Youth Advisory Council, the DCGC seeks to ensure that youth voices are centered in the local policy space.
DOCUMENTARY FILM PREMIERE
Rights4Girls was honored to collaborate and be featured in Nameless, a documentary film detailing the realities of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in DC. Produced by the DC Coalition to End Sexual Violence, the film has served to educate thousands of DC residents about the harms and impact of human trafficking in the DMV.
CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY WITH GLORIA STEINEM
Rights4Girls Executive Director Yasmin Vafa joined feminist icon Gloria Steinem for a conversation on the state of women and girls’ rights at Diane Von Furstenburg’s Int’l Women’s Day event.
TRAFFICKING VICTIMS PROTECTION ACT REAUTHORIZED
Multiple pieces of legislation were signed into law, that together, reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)—the most important federal anti-trafficking law. Rights4Girls worked with members in the House and Senate on the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017, and the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, all of which update and strengthen key aspects of federal anti-trafficking law to improve our response toward trafficking survivors and increase funding for victims’ services.
BIPARTISAN JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM ENACTED
The bipartisan Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 was signed into law, providing critical updates and improvements to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) which was last reauthorized over 15 years ago. Rights4Girls championed the inclusion of important protections for girls, including a ban on the shackling of pregnant girls as well as screening and services for child trafficking survivors caught in the juvenile justice system.
RELEASE OF POETRY AND ART COMPILATION UPLIFTING INCARCERATED GIRLS’ VOICES
Rights4Girls and the Georgetown Law Center on Gender Justice & Opportunity released, I Am the Voice: Girls’ Reflections from Inside the Justice System — a compilation of the visual and written work of justice- involved girls from across the nation. This art booklet reflects our philosophy that in order to truly support girls, we must let them lead by centering their voices and experiences in the juvenile justice system.
ESTABLISHING GIRLS’ JUSTICE DAY
Rights4Girls inspired legislators in Jackson, Mississippi to officially declare October 25th Girls’ Justice Day. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba adopted our Girls’ Justice Day Resolution acknowledging the injustice girls face via the Abuse to Prison Pipeline and calling for the City of Jackson to diminish the abusive environments girls encounter daily.
PROTECTING HEALTHCARE ACCESS FOR VULNERABLE YOUTH
The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act was signed into law, providing critical healthcare protections for vulnerable youth. Too often children lose their healthcare coverage if they enter the juvenile justice system, but thanks to this law, children will no longer face an interruption in healthcare if they touch the system. The legislation also extends healthcare coverage for former foster youth up to age 26.
PENNSYLVANIA DECLARES THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A ‘CHILD PROSTITUTE’
After years of advocacy emphasizing the need to decriminalize survivors of child sex trafficking, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania finally declared that there is no such thing as a ‘child prostitute’ and reformed its laws to protect child victims. Pennsylvania officially enacted a safe harbor law that provides minors immunity from prosecution for prostitution offenses.
REPORT RELEASE ON THE OVERCRIMINALIZATION OF GIRLS IN DC
Rights4Girls, in partnership with the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative, released a first-of-its-kind report detailing girls’ increased contact with D.C.’s juvenile justice system. Beyond the Walls: A Look at Girls in D.C.’s Juvenile Justice System, reveals how the percentage of girls—and particularly Black girls— entering the juvenile justice system in D.C. has risen dramatically, even as the number of boys has decreased, and exposes the ways that D.C. is criminalizing girls for non-violent behaviors that pose no threat to public safety.
REPORT RELEASE URGING PROTECTIONS FOR CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING SURVIVORS
Rights4girls released a report on innovative court protections for child sex trafficking victim witnesses. Survivor Protection: Reducing the Risk of Trauma to Child Sex Trafficking Victims, published in partnership with Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Trustlaw, describes how child sex trafficking survivors are not always afforded courtroom protections provided to other victims of gender violence and child abuse, and offers recommendations on how to extend these safeguards to trafficking survivors.
RIGHTS4GIRLS TESTIFIES BEFORE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Rights4Girls Executive Director Yasmin Vafa was invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on juvenile justice reform and the need to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) in order to protect vulnerable girls and survivors of violence and exploitation caught in the system.
“NO SUCH THING” BILL SIGNED INTO LAW IN CALIFORNIA
Almost one year after our launch of our No Such Thing campaign in Los Angeles, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1322 otherwise known as the “No Such Thing” bill. SB 1322 renders all children in California immune from prosecution for prostitution and prostitution-related offenses in California.
CENTERING GIRLS AT THE UNITED STATE OF WOMEN
Rights4Girls did a plenary presentation on our Girls at the Margin National Alliance and its policy goals at the United State of Women Conference. Girls at the Margin is a national coalition of over 200 girl-serving organizations that we co-lead with our partners at National Crittenton.
GIRLS SUMMIT AT THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE
We partnered with the White House Council on Women and Girls to bring girls and service providers from over 17 states together to discuss the various issues impacting marginalized girls, and to engage in solution-focused discussions in the areas of education, child welfare, juvenile justice, child sex trafficking, and pregnant and parenting girls.
R4G EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AWARDED CONGRESSIONAL HONOR FOR VICTIM ADVOCACY
Rights4Girls Executive Director Yasmin Vafa was awarded the Lois Haight Award for Excellence and Innovation by the U.S. House of Representatives Victims’ Rights Caucus for legislative advocacy on behalf of trafficking survivors.
CAMPAIGN VICTORY: AP AGREES THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A “CHILD PROSTITUTE”
Our No Such Thing campaign secured a key victory when the Associated Press revised its AP Stylebook to instruct writers to stop using the word “prostitute” when a child is involved as a direct result of our campaign. The decision to end the use of the phrase “child prostitute” was not only a win for accuracy in reporting, but has gone a long way toward changing attitudes about girls who are victims of child sex trafficking.
REPORT RELEASE ON THE SEXUAL ABUSE TO PRISON PIPELINE
Rights4Girls released a seminal report on girls’ pathways into the justice system. The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story, authored in conjunction with Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the Ms. Foundation for Women, tells the untold, hidden narrative of girls and our broken justice system. Our report outlines the ways in which gendered violence creates pathways for girls—and especially girls of color— into the juvenile justice system. The report continues to shape our understanding of incarcerated women and girls and has ignited intersectional justice reform efforts, including efforts to decriminalize survivors of violence.
JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING ACT SIGNED INTO LAW
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act is the first anti-trafficking law focused exclusively on domestic victims of human trafficking. This landmark piece of legislation increases funding to domestic trafficking victims, encourages states to stop arresting and prosecuting child victims, prioritizes demand-reduction as a prevention strategy, and creates a Survivor Advisory Council to advise on federal human trafficking efforts.
R4G TESTIFIES BEFORE THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
R4G petitioned the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) to examine the United States for continuing to arrest and incarcerate child victims of sex trafficking. Together with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, we appealed to the Commission to explore the condition of child victims of sex trafficking in the United States and how the U.S. has failed to prevent states from enforcing prostitution laws against such children even when such laws conflict with state, federal, and international law. The resulting hearing helped expose the human rights violations that child victims of commercial sexual exploitation suffer in the U.S. at the hands of state authorities instead of receiving the care and assistance to which they are entitled.
CHILD WELFARE & TRAFFICKING LEGISLATION SIGNED INTO LAW
Rights4Girls worked closely with survivors, child welfare organizations, and lawmakers to pass this groundbreaking legislation, which finally recognized the intersection between foster care and domestic child sex trafficking. The Preventing Sex Trafficking & Strengthening Families Act, requires child welfare agencies to improve their response to child sex trafficking by screening all youth for trafficking, recording and reporting those numbers, and referring children into appropriate services. It also requires agencies to report any children missing from care to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children within 24 hours to improve the response time of law enforcement agencies to find children vulnerable to traffickers.