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West Newsmagazine Op-Ed: Combating sex trafficking in Missouri

Mar 10, 2014
In The News

Combating sex trafficking in Missouri

To the Editor:

Did you know that 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States each year with the average age being 13 to 14 years old?  Or that St. Louis is one of the top 20 cities in the nation for sex trafficking?

Modern-day slavery exists right here in our communities.  It is hiding in plain sight.  Every day, children in our own neighborhoods are being sold into forced prostitution.  Sexual predators can go online and have child prostitutes sent to their hotel rooms as easily as if they were ordering a pizza.

As a mother, I believe we have a moral obligation to stop the devastating consequences of human trafficking where innocent children are dragged into the dark abyss of sex slavery. The key to combatting human trafficking is partnership between public and private sectors and continued due diligence with criminal justice professionals and victims’ service providers.

Increased education and training will lead to the identification of more victims, which is the critical step in breaking the cycle of exploitation. However, our work does not end there.

Congress has the opportunity to take a stand to protect our children from the atrocities of sex trafficking.

That is why I am supporting several pieces of bipartisan legislation that would give law enforcement, prosecutors and social services the necessary tools and resources to combat human trafficking and boost support for victims.

But in order to combat sex trafficking we must get to the root of this epidemic.  Over the last ten years, prostitution has migrated to an online marketplace.

Online classified services, such as Backpage.com, have become the vehicles for advertising the victims of the child sex trade to the world.  That’s why I introduced the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act, which is designed to close Internet marketplaces that host advertisements for the commercial exploitation of minors.

It is our moral obligation and legislative duty to ensure that advertisements of child sex trafficking like Backpage are not allowed to operate and claim yet another victim.

It is only through increased awareness, resources, and legislative action that we will be able to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from sexual exploitation and enslavement.

Rep. Ann Wagner