Earlier in April, the Missouri House passed HB 2032, a bill that outlines provisions, penalties and efforts to combat child sex trafficking.
Dawn Day, who volunteers with Stand Against Trafficking, a local coalition that fights all human trafficking, says the bill simplifies the law when it comes to preventing sex trafficking of minors.
“Some of the provisions and changes they’re making have language specific to minors, Day says.
“Point blank, anybody under the age of 18, if they are participating in any type of sexual exploitation, they are automatically a victim of trafficking. There’s also language in there where if the trafficking is occurring, within a business, that business will be shut down.”
The ex-officio four stance says the bill also strengthens potential punishments and resources for victims.
“This puts harsher penalties on the individuals that commit these crimes.” Day says. “And it’s creating a mandatory resource center or a follow up concept for identifying victims in this age group.“
Day say educating the public and recognizing signs of exploitation is helpful when it comes to prevention.
“It’s not like what we see on the movies, not the big, sensationalized concept of people being brought in from other countries,” Day said.
“Traffickers are smart. They unfortunately, people go after vulnerabilities, and they use a grooming tactic to gain trust with that individual. Once they’ve gained that trust and companionship, then the exploitation begins.”
As a mother in the Springfield community, Day says any steps in the right direction is progress regardless.
“Any momentum, any direction forward with protecting victims is an absolute win. And we hope that this is one of many changes and suggestions that come to strengthening our Missouri laws.”