OLYMPIA…In association with Human Trafficking Awareness Month initiatives at the Capitol, Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, is introducing a bill to help stop the sexual exploitation of children and severely punish those who take their innocence.
“Thanks in part to the explosion of child pornography on the Internet, the demand for child prostitutes is skyrocketing,” Stevens said. “This has resulted in the recruitment and coercion of countless minor children and teens into prostitution. It’s happening in every major city worldwide, including cities in Washington. Buyers will pay hundreds–sometimes thousands–of dollars for a young child. If passed, Senate Bill 6476 would dramatically increase penalties for recruiting, selling, transporting or purchasing underage children for sexual purposes.”
SB 6476 would raise the promotion of commercial sex abuse of a minor (“pimping”) to a Class A felony, carrying a 7- to 26-year prison sentence and a maximum $5,000 fine. Now it’s a Class B Felony, which carries a minimum sentence of just 1.75 years. The bill would elevate commercial sex abuse of a minor (buying) from a Class C felony with a $550 fine to a Class B felony, with a 1.75- to 12-year sentence and an additional $5,000 fine.
“With adult prostitution, law enforcement officers are trained to arrest and charge the prostitute, only marginally addressing the seller and buyer,” Stevens said. “Minors kidnapped or coerced into prostitution are victims. They had no choice. These children and young teens are so abused they don’t know who to trust. They have no safe place to go. To treat them as criminals simply adds another bad dream to an already nightmarish existence. My bill would provide these exploited children with a safe haven, where they can be helped out of bondage and into a new life.”
Stevens, who recommends visiting www.enddemand.org for additional information on this world-wide problem, said her bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee.