Noem: Bring awareness to human sex trafficking
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., hopes to raise awareness of human sex trafficking and create a better system to punish those who conduct the trafficking and create the market for it.
Helping victims and preventing others from being victimized is a top goal, Noem told reporters Thursday.
“The best thing we can do is prevent these victims before they ever get pulled into the industry,” she said, noting the need to better track and assist foster children as they become adults. “We need to make sure we can go after those pimps or people who pull our kids into this industry for sex trafficking, but also be sure in federal law that we can go after those that respond to the ads and create a market.”
Noem recapped the Justice Against Slavery Summit she hosted Monday in Sioux Falls to bring awareness to and inspire action on the issue in South Dakota. Noem was joined by the Polaris Project, advocates from the Native American community, law enforcement officers, parents and others to build awareness and lay out concrete ideas to better address human trafficking, according to a news release from her office.
“A lack of understanding about the issue of human trafficking has meant victims — even those under the age of 18 — have been mistaken for prostitutes, migrant farm workers and runaway youth,” Noem said.
“(Monday’s) Justice Against Slavery Summit further grew the level of awareness in our community and successfully brought together a number of perspectives so we could work collaboratively toward a better solution.
“The awareness we were able to bring to this issue must be accompanied by action. I have already helped introduce legislation in Congress and will use the information I received today to help pass necessary reforms. I’m hopeful the same will be done on the local and state levels and will do all I can to move that process forward.”
Noem was recruited as a member of a human trafficking task force assembled by Majority Leader Eric Cantor and she will be bringing the ideas discussed during Monday’s summit back to the task force, according to the news release.
Additionally, Noem has co-sponsored a series of anti-trafficking bills, many of which could be included in a broader anti-trafficking package that is expected to be voted on in the House sometime this spring. The legislation she is supporting includes:
• End Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 2805). This proposal clarifies the law to make it clear that criminals who solicit or obtain the services of a trafficking victim should be arrested, prosecuted and convicted.
• Stop Exploitation through Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 3610). This legislation would establish safe harbor laws across the country, which require that minors engaged in prostitution are treated as trafficking victims, not criminals.
• Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act (H.R. 2744). Because children in foster care are at greater risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking, H.R. 2744 would ensure any missing children in foster care and adoption assistance are reported to authorities for entry into the National Crime Information Center of the FBI within 24 hours. The legislation would also require states to develop plans to address human trafficking within the foster care system and better identify the victims of sex trafficking who are under the state’s care.
• Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act (H.R. 4058). This legislation would work to improve the way that states monitor and share information for children in foster care. The proposal also encourages states to do more to move kids out of foster care and into an adoptive home or permanent living situation.