Hawaii Lawmakers Consider Tougher Penalties for Soliciting Child Prostitutes
In an exclusive interview with her mother by her side, Dee Dee, now 17, talked about the first time she was forced to have sex for money, and how scared and humiliated she felt.
After her pimp beat and raped her repeatedly during her “breaking in period,” she saw no way to escape.
"I did it because my pimp was threatening to kill my family. Because he found out where my family lived. He threatened to kill them or to kill me. So I did it because I was scared. It was mostly out of fear," Dee Dee said.
Dee Dee was a child sex trafficking victim – she was never paid for working as a prostitute or allowed to keep any money for food. She said her clients included military, tourists and local professionals. There were other young girls from Hawaii in the same situation who Dee Dee encountered. They were forced to take drugs and then controlled by their addictions.
"If you say 'I don’t touch drugs, I hate those, they are gross,' the pimp will hold you down and shoot you up. …A lot of times I would see pimps control girls just because of the drugs," Dee Dee said.
Dee Dee escaped about four months after she was first kidnapped, but only because she was picked up by law enforcement after being misidentified as a runaway youth and not a sex trafficking victim.
Jana, another child who worked the streets of Waikiki and Chinatown as a prostitute before being placed in Rappongi Relaxation at 350 Ward Avenue, also was rescued by law enforcement. In an exclusive interview with Hawaii Reporter, Jana said she was hooked on drugs given to her by her pimp and nearly killed by her clients on more than one occasion. She agreed with Dee Dee that Hawaii's streets are a "very dangerous place to be.”
Kathryn Xian, head of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), helped DeeDee, Jana and a number of other young girls who are victims of sex trafficking. She also assists law enforcement to get pimps prosecuted and trains the state's first responders to identify trafficking victims.
PASS teamed up with Imua Alliance, and the tenacious anti trafficking advocacy organizations are working to get passed new laws that increase penalties for patrons of prostitution. Xian points out that prostitution is a petty misdemeanor equal in penalty to remaining over hours at a city park.
Two of the bills include:
SB192 "End Demand for Prostitution", which will be heard in a Senate committee on Friday, February 15, makes it a crime to solicit of a minor for prostitution, and increases the statute of limitations to bring a cause of action for coercion into prostitution from two to six years. The legislation also adds the offenses of solicitation of a minor for prostitution, habitual solicitation of prostitution, and solicitation of prostitution near schools and public parks under the State's forfeiture laws.
SB194 "Relating to Criminal Procedure," prevents those who solicit prostitutes to get the crime wiped clean from their record through a deferred acceptance plea. The bill will also get its first hearing on Friday.
Hawaii is a hot spot for sex trafficking in part because the islands are a popular destination for tourists from around the world and Hawaii also has a high percentage of military based here.
Google.org awarded a sizable grant to the Polaris Project and International Justice Mission in 2011 to work on the ground in 5 key states to help establish stronger laws against trafficking, and Hawaii was the first stop. Representatives from these groups have dedicated $1.8 million to Hawaii's campaign and are backing PASS' efforts to get tougher laws enacted.
“Studies from Sweden and Norway, countries which have criminalized the purchasing of persons for sex, have seen significant reductions in violence against prostituted persons since the laws have passed,” Xian said.
“Conversely, Hawaii has almost no serious penalties nor methods of public accountability for patrons of prostitution and sex trafficking, which allows them to worsen in their deviant paraphilic behavior against women who do not have the ability to speak out due to societal bias and fear of retaliation.”
Xian said PASS and Imua are “imploring lawmakers to End the Demand for Prostitution and Sex Trafficking” and have amassed nearly 5,000 petitioners to support this cause.
To help many children like Dee Dee and Jana, Xian said the laws couldn’t be enacted soon enough.
Dee Dee, who with her mother has lobbied for tougher laws, agrees with Xian, saying she was lucky to get out alive. "The longer you stay and the less hope you have," she said.
Jana added: "Cause if you stay in the game, you will never come home. Unless somebody comes and rescues you … like the cops, or somebody.”
MORE ON THE WEB
Jana's Story: Life as an Underage Sex Trafficking Victim in Honolulu
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