Responding to Child Victims of Human Trafficking - North Dakota

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State Agency Responsibilities

Citation: Cent. Code § 50-25.1-05; Pol. Iss. 15-20

The Department of Human Services immediately shall initiate an assessment of any report of child abuse or neglect. If the report alleges a violation of a criminal statute involving sexual or physical abuse, the department and an appropriate law enforcement agency shall coordinate the planning and execution of their investigation efforts to avoid a duplication of fact-finding efforts and multiple interviews.

In policy: Reports of suspected child abuse and neglect that involve labor or sex trafficking of a minor are received in the same manner as any other report of suspected child abuse or neglect. Reports containing concerns of sex or labor trafficking of a child also are reports of possible criminal activity and are considered to be Category A reports, requiring contact with law enforcement within 24 hours.

In every trafficking case involving a child, child protective services (CPS) and a law enforcement agency must conduct a joint assessment/investigation of the allegations. Most importantly, law enforcement agencies and CPS must coordinate to minimize the number of times a victim is interviewed regarding the report. The use of a Children's Advocacy Center to conduct forensic interviews is strongly encouraged. Sharing of reports, investigatory tools, and information is strongly encouraged to assist the investigation of the criminal matter and the child protection proceeding.

A successful investigation of human trafficking and a child protection assessment must always center on the victim with the goals of successful prosecution of the trafficker and protection of the child. This requires a joint investigation, but it also requires lending support to traumatized and confused victims to gain their confidence and lead them to safety from their trafficker. Once victims of human trafficking are removed from their traffickers, they often feel isolated in their new situations and need support. Law enforcement and CPS can assist victims by using an organized and joint investigation that reduces stressful encounters and by providing appropriate services to aid the victim.

When assessing a report of suspected human trafficking, CPS should consider the following steps:

  • Assess a child's safety, trauma exposure, and need for services
  • Determine the medical needs of the child
  • Determine whether the exploiter has access to the child
  • Decide if a child needs to be placed in a secure facility or shelter care facility for their safety
  • Develop and implement a safety plan for a child
  • Notify the parent, guardian, or custodian as soon as possible, unless there is a reason to believe that a child would be endangered
  • Offer services to a child, parent, guardian, or custodian

Trauma-focused services are often an immediate need for victims.

Interviews should be jointly conducted between law enforcement and CPS under the provisions of § 5-25.1-05(2). It is recommended that all children who are suspected victims of human trafficking receive a forensic interview through a children's advocacy center whenever possible.

Training Requirement

Citation: Cent. Code § 54-12-33

The Human Trafficking Commission shall do the following:

  • Promote training on human trafficking prevention and victim services for State and local employees who may have recurring contact with victims or perpetrators
  • Promote training on human trafficking investigation and prosecution with the North Dakota State's Attorney's Association, the North Dakota Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, and State and local law enforcement agencies

Diversion From Prosecution

Citation: Cent. Code § 12.1-41-2

If the individual was a minor at the time of the offense and committed the offense as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking, the individual is not criminally liable or subject to a juvenile delinquency proceeding under chapter 27-20 for any of the following:

  • Prostitution under § 12.1-29-03
  • Misdemeanor forgery under § 12.1-24-01
  • Misdemeanor theft offenses under chapter 12.1-23
  • Insufficient funds or credit offenses under § 6-08-16
  • Manufacture or possession of a controlled or counterfeit substance offenses under § 19-03.1-23
  • Drug paraphernalia offenses under chapter 19-03.4

It is an affirmative defense to felony forgery, felony theft, and felony drug distribution that the individual was a minor at the time of the offense and committed the offense as a direct result of being a victim as defined by this chapter.

An individual who has engaged in commercial sexual activity is not criminally liable or subject to a juvenile delinquency proceeding under chapter 27-20 for prostitution if the individual was a minor at the time of the offense.

A minor who is not subject to criminal liability or a juvenile delinquency proceeding for engaging in prostitution or commercial sexual activity is presumed to be a child in need of services under chapter 50-25.1.

Services and Supports for Victims

Citation: Cent. Code § 12.1-41-17; Pol. Iss. 15-20

A minor who has engaged in commercial sexual activity is eligible for a benefit or service available through the State, regardless of immigration status. As soon as practicable after a first encounter with an individual who reasonably appears to law enforcement to be a victim or a minor who has engaged in commercial sexual activity, the law enforcement agency shall notify the Victim Services Division of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that the individual may be eligible for a benefit or service under the law of this State.

In policy: A children's advocacy center may provide the following services:

  • Interviews
  • Assessments
  • Medical exams
  • Trauma assessment
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Court support

All services should be offered in a child-friendly, sensitive, and safe environment.

Most victims of child trafficking suffer from serious physical and mental health issues. Many victims are subjected to violent physical and sexual behaviors, verbal abuse, derogatory language, and forced consumption of alcohol or other drugs. Many of the victims experience symptoms indicative of posttraumatic stress disorder, dissociation disorder, depression, and other mental health concerns. Therefore, it is imperative that victims be provided trauma-informed care and services. Victims also are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and may need legal services to access legal protections and navigate the legal system.

There is a high level of need for comprehensive and intensive therapeutic services. Social services agency staff should collaborate with the child, and parent/guardian (when appropriate), to develop an individualized service plan. This plan should address the need for safe housing, physical and mental health services, substance abuse treatment, therapeutic foster homes, and other services.

Support for Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Citation: Cent. Code § 54-12-33

The attorney general may establish a Human Trafficking Commission, comprised of designees from State, local, and Tribal agencies that have contact with victims or perpetrators, nongovernmental organizations that represent or work with victims, and other organizations and individuals, including victims, whose expertise would benefit the commission. The attorney general may establish the commission by appointing an existing statewide coalition.

The commission shall do the following:

  • Collect and evaluate data on human trafficking in this State and submit an annual report to the attorney general, governor, and legislative assembly
  • Promote public awareness about human trafficking, victim remedies and services, and trafficking prevention
  • Promote training on human trafficking prevention and victim services for State and local employees who may have recurring contact with victims or perpetrators
  • Promote training on human trafficking investigation and prosecution with the North Dakota State's Attorney's Association, the North Dakota Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, and State and local law enforcement agencies
  • Conduct other appropriate activities