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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Kan. bill poised to fight for young sex trafficking victims

  • Local residents say legislation awaiting the signature of Gov. Sam Brownback is a step in the right direction to fight for young victims of sexual exploitation.
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  • Local residents say legislation awaiting the signature of Gov. Sam Brownback is a step in the right direction to fight for young victims of sexual exploitation.
    The Kansas House and Senate recently passed a bill that would heavily amend current laws regarding human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of young women. It creates the crime of commercial sexual exploitation of children ages 14 to 17, as well as makes modifications to past laws, according to the Associated Press.
    Wendy Lorenz of the Set Free Movement in McPherson, said she thinks the legislation would deter some perpetrators.
    “I think it's a great thing anytime we can crack down and make it painful to commit certain crimes,” she said. “But it doesn't seem like punishment will deter all crimes.”
    Lorenz thinks the public is becoming more aware of human trafficking, which often precedes legislation.
    “You always wish it would have been earlier, but the whole nation is really becoming aware,” she said.
    “So I think now is better than later.”
    For some, however, the legislation comes too late to be preventative. Lorenz said she knows of one teenager from the area who ran away to Wichita and is in the process of being trafficked.
    Sedgwick County law enforcement worked 45 trafficking cases last year, according to the Associated Press.
    “I know this isn't a huge problem here, but there are individuals who will be helped by this bill,” Lorenz said.
    Dianna Carter, recently a local leader of anti-trafficking movement One Billion Rising of McPherson, said although the legislation indeed addresses trafficking, she wishes more would be done to prevent crime.
    “What do we do as a society to keep it from happening in the first place?” she said. “And where do we deal with people's hearts and minds so we don't see these things happen to innocent children? I don't see how we do that when we've gone so far out of hand. You can pass all the laws you want with the end result, but it's what we do upfront for prevention.”
    The bill, SB 61, establishes a fund to aid treatment for victims. It would be paid through fines taken from those convicted of committing the crimes, according to the Associated Press.
    Although she has not counseled victims of human trafficking, clinical therapist Barb Claassen with McPherson Family Life Center has helped victims of sexual abuse. A fund like the one established by the bill would provide resources for support she knows those rescued would need.
    “One can't say enough about the need for ongoing therapy for sexual abuse,” she said. “It's not something that's easily fixed, but needs to be developed over time. With the increasing amount of trafficking, for sure that's a definite area of need.”
    Page 2 of 2 - If passed, the new legislation would take effect in July, according to the Associated Press.
    Contact Jenae Pauls at jpauls@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel.
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