Nevada lawmakers are considering a bill that takes the first step toward treating survivors of child sex exploitation as victims, not criminals.
“The thought of children being sold for sex on a nightly basis is deeply disturbing but all too real,” former Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta told members of the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 151 ensures Nevada’s compliance with federal law requiring states to tweak their child abuse and neglect statutes to include sex trafficking.
The measure allows child welfare agencies to open cases, perform assessments, and refer children and families to available resources and services.
In Nevada, where officials have been resistant to change, those resources are limited.
Saitta, who chaired the states Child Sex Exploitation Commission, a state panel mandated by federal law, told lawmakers child sex trafficking is a $32 billion a year industry.
“Over 100,000 children are trafficked in the U.S,” she testified. “Fifty to eighty percent have been involved with the child welfare system.”
“All we ask is for the creation of a system in our statutory scheme that speaks to protecting child victims of sexual exploitation,” Saitta said.
The bill also increases the responsibility of mandatory reporters such as teachers and coaches to report sexual exploitation of children and offers confidentiality to all who report.
“There is everything right about giving our child welfare agencies the ability to service these children,” Saitta told lawmakers. “Thanks to the feds for making us do it.”