At the Capitol, bipartisan legislation to end the practice of charging youth under the age of 18 with prostitution had a public hearing on Thursday.
State Senator Alberta Darling (R-Rivers Hills) said it’s a recognition of the fact that those young people are victims of human trafficking.
“I think we have to make this really personal. Because what if this was your daughter, or your granddaughter . . or your niece or your nephew,” Darling told the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. “All of us can look at people we care about and ask what if it were them.”
Advocates say human trafficking takes place in all 72 Wisconsin counties.
“It’s not just a real problem it’s a heartbreaking problem. And we need to do everything that we can to treat these young people as victims, and get them the help that they need,” said state Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay).
State Senator LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) said the bill (SB 245) would bring Wisconsin into line with federal law, which treats children involved in commercial sex acts as sexually exploited children and victims of child abuse, not criminals. “This is bill does not legalize prostitution,” Johnson said.