State leaders want crackdown on child sex trafficking in Missouri

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JEFFERSON CITY - Roughly a dozen witnesses, made up of state leaders and residents, testified during a house hearing Wednesday in support of a bill that would crackdown on child sex-trafficking crimes in Missouri.

If passed, the bill would "expand the crime of sex trafficking of a child to include advertising a child participating in a commercial sexual act". One of the sponsors said the bill would target websites, such as Backpage.com, which are known for publishing a large number of sex-trafficking advertisements.

"These webites serve as meat markets for sex," said Rep. Elijah Haahr, (R-Springfield). "Ordering sex from one of the these websites is as easy as ordering a pepperoni pizza."

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the legal definition of sex trafficking is defined as "a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age".

Jefferson City native Jessica Luebbert who says she is a survivor of sex trafficking. She also testifeid as one of the witnesses at the hearing in support of HB 152

"I thought I was going on a modeling trip to Maui," Luebbert said. "After three days of being drugged and forced into sex with strangers at hotel, I was able to escape by getting the attention of a hotel employee."

In a news conference held immediately after the hearing, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) spoke in support of the bill and said additional efforts state-wide and nationally still need to be made in order to combat sex trafficking crimes.

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