The Dallas Women's Foundation raised over a million dollars at the annual luncheon this October. The keynote speaker was U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking and Actress, Mira Sorvino. The sold out event raised awareness of the issue of human trafficking and slavery both on a local and international level.
The event had more than 1,500 women and men attending and raised funds for the work the Dallas Women’s Foundation does to advance women in society. By providing grants for local non-profits that address issues of injustice within the North Texas community and continued research in the field of women's studies and human trafficking.
The speaker, Sorvino won the Academy Award for her performance in "Mighty Aphrodite"in 1996. In 2009, Sorvino became the U.N. Ambassador. Sorvino spoke of the need for stronger "Safe Harbor" laws in the State of Texas, the need for law enforcement to arrest the demand side of sex slavery and the need to decriminalized the victims of human trafficking.
"Safe Harbor" laws in the state of Texas address some of the minimum requirements of the law but do not address some of the more complex issues that domestic minor sex trafficking victims require. Current state laws requires a pimp/trafficker must be remanded into custody to prove that a minor was a victim of human trafficking. Under stronger "Safe Harbor" laws anyone under 18-years-old are seen as victims regardless if a pimp/trafficker was arrested.
In current Texas law anyone under 14-years-old cannot be remanded into custody as a prostitute. The understanding of the law changed in the case "The Matter of BW" where the Texas Supreme Court established legal groundwork that children under the age of 14 could not be held liable for prostitution.
Most current services to commercially exploited minors in Texas are forced incarceration at juvenile detention centers. In the speech Sorvino said,
In the majority of all states the people arrested for prostitution are the women and minors. Strict Safe Harbor laws help decriminalize the victim and criminalize the traffickers/pimps and people facilitating the crime.
There is no other crime where a victim is treated like criminals and incarcerated for their own good.
Child Victim Identification Challenges that "Safe Harbor" laws can address are:
- Lack of general understanding about human trafficking among those that come in contact with children.
- Lack of self‐identification as victim.
- Contradictory laws.
The fundraiser helped to shed light on a current laws of human trafficking in North Texas and needed legislature that will protect domestic minor victims of human trafficking. The funds raised will help support existing non-profits in combating human trafficking in Texas.