Another big problem is that federal law requires that prosecutors be able to prove force, fraud, or coercion by pimps, making it very important for victims to testify against their exploiters. But often times women are too scared to come forward, or feel that their pimps are their only source of protection due to concept called "traumatic bonding."
"Trafficking is a unique kind of crime because traffickers often brainwash their victims and use very sophisticated tactics to do so," said Leidholdt. "Not only do they physically abuse them, but they often make them believe that their safety depends on them, and manage to win their loyalty."
Leidholdt says this concept has been recognized in domestic abuse cases, and for that reason domestic abuse law requires only evidence-based prosecutions to convict perpetrators, instead of relying on testimonies of victims.
She believes prosecutors should be able to rely on evidence, like wiretaps, in trafficking cases as well, regardless of the quality of victim testimony. A father, son pair was acquitted from sex-trafficking charges in New York in June because the same prostitutes who were threatened with beatings if they didn't make enough money (according to wiretap evidence), testified on the father and son's behalf in court.
Short sentencing for human traffickers also means that victims are more fearful to come forward, pimps retain their power of prostitutes from behind bars, and prostitution rings are more likely to resume when traffickers are released from prison, according to Leinholdt.
"Legislators and prosecutors need to beat traffickers at their own game, which means changing the law," she said. "We have to find a way to be as sophisticated as traffickers are themselves."