NEW HAVEN — When a young girl finds herself out on the street, selling her body to pay her pimp or because she has a drug addiction, it’s not prostitution — it’s coercion, abuse, slavery.
That’s the premise behind a new bill making its way through the state Senate that would protect children from being prosecuted for the crime of prostitution. The proposed “Safe Harbor” bill creates the presumption that children and teens who engage in prostitution are victims of sexual exploitation.
“They are coerced or forced into this trade, and they should be treated as victims instead of criminals,” said state Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, who sponsored Senate Bill 153.
“The big thing is, this needs to be brought up and it needs to be talked about. It can’t be swept under the rug.”
Specifically, the bill says anyone under the age of 16 cannot be prosecuted for crimes of prostitution. For 16- and 17-year-olds facing prostitution charges, “there shall be a presumption that the actor was coerced into committing such offense by another person.”
Kane said he hopes to have a vote on the bill before the Senate’s current session ends May 5.
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