In December, after more than seven years behind bars, 32-year-old LeeAnn walked out of federal prison. But she’s not a free woman — she will spend the rest of her life on the sex offender registry. Her crime? Letting a girl shower in her mother’s apartment, giving her a clean change of clothes and holding the girl’s $40 while she had sex with a man in another room.
These are normal actions in the daily life of sex workers trying to keep themselves and each other safe. But the girl turned out to be 14 and, in the eyes of the federal government, these acts constitute sex trafficking of a minor. It didn’t matter that the girl had told LeeAnn that she was 17. It also didn’t matter that LeeAnn, who was addicted to various drugs and also engaged in sex work, never made money from the girl’s actions. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the girl was considered a trafficking victim, and LeeAnn a trafficker.