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Hawaii's poor trafficking laws rank as some of the worst in the nation

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jul 01 2013 06:08:00 PM HST

Experts say human trafficking is the second most lucrative offense next to drug trafficking.

HONOLULU -

"Out on the streets it's very hard. It felt like forever," said DeeDee.

A family member recruited her at 16 years old, and then, an abusive pimp made her work the streets of Waikiki.

"What's involved here are a lot of underdogs," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie, his eyes tearing up during a bill signing session at his office on Monday.

Sen. Bill 192 makes solicitation of a minor for prostitution a crime. Up until now that offense only resulted in a fine equivalent to a parking ticket.

Sen. Bill 194 means so-called "johns" can no longer have their records cleared after six months of good behavior.

Many businesses are now required to post a human trafficking hotline.

And, child trafficking becomes a form of abuse, opening up state services for victims.

"There will be an increase in the reporting of these victims, and subsequently, we will see an increase in the services provided to these children," said Kris Coffield, with IMUAlliance, and author of this year's sex trafficking bills.

In December, Shared Hope International released its national report on child sex trafficking laws: Hawaii got a big F.

"Every time I ran away, my pimp at the time would find me and abuse me worse than the times before," said Kalei.

She said an encounter at a bar led to her entrapment into a prostitution ring.

She and DeeDee are just two of many examples fueling advocates to push harder.

"Human trafficking is not spoken of very often. I think it took things happening on the national level for this to come about," said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, a long-time advocate for tougher human trafficking laws.

Advocates say Hawaii's high rates of homeless children, missing kids, incarcerated girls, teen suicide, and incest all ripen our environment for sex traffickers.

"We need to take a look at how we deal with the issues surrounding poverty, race, and class, and really take proactive steps to heal our community," said Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.

This session, Sen. Chun-Oakland cemented $400,000 for the beginnings of an assessment center where victims can get protection, mentoring, and quality help.

Advocates are already working on the next legislative session: Xian said they're focusing on a Safe Harbor Bill to protect child sex trafficking victims from prosecution, as well as prosecuting police, if in prostitution cases, they overstep the law.
 

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