The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a bill aimed at encouraging the reporting of child sex trafficking, one of several expected to move through the chamber this week.
Columbus-area Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Twp., is the lead sponsor of a bill that would make it easier to report instances of trafficking children for sex to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber Tipline.
Even though the center frequently deals with reports of child sex trafficking, current law does not define child sex trafficking as one of the types of sexual exploitation that should be reported to the tip line.
Beatty’s bill, which passed 411-0, would change that. She said doing so would make it clear that children who are sex trafficked or sexually exploited should be treated as victims, not criminals, under the law.
In a speech on the floor of the House, Beatty said some 300,000 children a year are at risk of being sexually trafficked. Many are runaways, homeless or in and out of foster care. Their average age, she said, is 12 years old.
“At 12 years old, children should be playing youth sports, participating in their school’s science fair, learning a new language or just enjoying being a child,” she said. “They should not be for sale night after night.”
Each year in Ohio, an estimated 1,078 children become victims of human trafficking, Beatty said.
“These children deserve better,” said Beatty, who co-sponsored another bill that passed unanimously aimed at improving how the child welfare system identifies, documents and counsels children at risk of exploitation.
In the Senate, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, plans to introduce a bill addressing sex trafficking soon, according to a spokesman. His bill will focus on more frequently updating records of children who are reported as missing.
“These are the kids who slip through the cracks,” Portman said.
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