U.S. House passes Beatty bill to fight child sex trafficking

By Jessica WehrmanThe Columbus Dispatch  •  Wednesday January 28, 2015 6:11 AM

WASHINGTON — A central Ohio congresswoman’s bill aimed at encouraging the reporting of child sex trafficking overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives yesterday.

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, 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 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.

The bill, which passed 411-0, was one of a number that the GOP-led Congress plan to pass this week focused on the issue of child sex trafficking, and earlier in the day Beatty joined Democrats and Republicans at a press conference aimed at highlighting the bills.

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.”

She said that each year in Ohio, an estimated 1,078 children become victims of human trafficking.

“These children deserve better,” she said

Beatty successfully pushed a similar bill through the House last year. In the Senate, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has also been active on the issue and plans to introduce a bill addressing sex trafficking soon, according to spokesmen. 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,” he said, adding, “Every day they are missing is one more day they are at risk.”

The House also passed a bill co-sponsored by Beatty yesterday that aims to improve how the child welfare system identifies, documents and counsels children at risk of exploitation. That bill, led by Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., passed 410-0.

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