South Dakota is one of only two states in the country that has to prove a child is forced into sex trafficking. But a bill in Pierre aims to change that, and it has a lot of support from law enforcement, prosecutors and victim right’s groups.
“So anytime they’re under the age of 18 if there’s any sign of it, we do not have to prove force, fraud or coercion,” Executive Director of Call To Freedom Becky Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen testified at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. She says the bill recognizes that children are not always capable of giving consent and sometimes won’t testify.
“What this will do is take it out of their decision making, but it’s giving the right as far as enforcement to law enforcement to enforce these laws,” Rasmussen said.
A lot of sex trafficking cases get prosecuted on the federal level, but get bogged down in the courts. Rasmussen says HB 1118 will allow state prosecutors to go after traffickers and speed up the process to ensure a conviction before any other children become victims.
“Traffickers prey upon that vulnerability, we have to be a state that protects our children, a state that’s a voice for our children when they don’t even understand that they are being trafficked or victimized,” Rasmussen said.