Abigail Swenstein Testifies at NYC Council Hearing
MONDAY, JUNE 09, 2014

Abigail Swenstein of The Legal Aid Society Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project testified at a New York City Council Committee on Public Safety hearing on June 9 in favor of statewide legislation that would prohibit the fact of possession of a condom from being used in prostitution and prostitution related trials.

The use of condoms taken as arrest evidence has been used to establish the arrestee's criminal intent to engage in sexual conduct for a fee, a practice that raises serious public health concerns. Swenstein applauded the May 12, 2014 announcement of Police Commissioner Bratton that the police will not confiscate condoms for low level prostitution offenses, but emphasized that the new policy does not go far enough. She testified regarding the impact on LAS clients, noting "[w]hen condoms are taken as arrest evidence, the message to these individuals is clear – better not to have condoms in their possession, even while being forced to engage in prostitution. The message resonates not only with trafficked people, but also with their exploiters and traffickers, who control every aspect of their lives, behavior and conduct."

The continued use of condoms as evidence in any prostitution related offense only serves to jeopardize the health and safety of trafficked individuals. The Legal Aid Society will continue to advocate for passage of this important state legislation.