New Missouri law seeks to help underage sex trafficking victims
QUINCY (WGEM) - Those at the Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri say human trafficking is a difficult crime to combat, and any methods to help victims are welcome.
They said a new law could hopefully make it easier for underage victims to help police catch their abuser.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Coordinator Stefanie Kaiser said one part of the new law prevents underaged victims from being charged with prostitution which could help them lead police to their trafficker.
“You’re trying to help reframe the fact of what’s happening to them. It’s not a criminal act, it’s a victim act, they’ve been victimized so you are going to put that back and reframe that underneath that framework,” she said. “You are shielding them from that and letting them testify as witnesses,” Kaiser said.
It also prevents a defendant’s attorney from being able to use a victims previous crimes to tarnish their credibility as a witness if they have to testify in court.
Forensic interviewer Jessica Homeyer said it is already difficult enough for victims to talk about their experiences
“They may be worried about what’s going to happen after they tell, how their families going to react, how society’s going to react and what the downfall will be from them talking, whether that be somebody having to move out of their house or losing a relationship with someone,” Homeyer said.
Kaiser said it will take time before they’ll see any effects, but she said she’s hoping good will come out of this for victims and that it’s a step in the right direction.
She said the bill also creates a task force comprised of law enforcement, medical services, children’s organizations and prosecuting offices to better address and gather data to combat child trafficking. She said this can be useful for educating people about signs of trafficked victims, how to recognize a potential trafficking case and create further polices and laws that would help victims.
She said some warning signs that someone is being abused or trafficked are:
- Talks about having older boyfriend or girlfriend
- Runs away from home
- Show signs of physical injury such as bruises or fractures
- Be inappropriately dressed for the seasons
- Be reluctant or refuse to answer questions or have someone answer them for them
- Lie about their age
- Having expensive gifts from a new friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend
- Indicate signs of drug addiction
- Exhibit changes in demeanor, such as being disoriented, confused, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid behavior
If you suspect someone is being trafficked or being abused you can call the Missouri Child Abuse or Neglect Hotline at 1-800-392-3738, if it’s immediate contact local law enforcement. For more information or resources you can call the Child Advocacy Network of Northeast Missouri at (573) 221-2256
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