Las Vegas Trying to End Sex Trafficking Horror

The signs that her youngest daughter was a prostitute couldn’t have been more obvious, although she didn’t make the connection at the time. There was the seductive way she dressed, the casual talk of sex during dinner, the way she called her boyfriend “Daddy” and he called her “Wifey.” When Andrea Swanson finally confronted her in her bedroom two years ago – she told an audience of more than 200 people at a sex trafficking summit at University of Nevada Las Vegas – she first acted like “a caged animal.” Then she copped to it.

Swanson’s riveting story of her daughter, a Centennial High School graduate, was the beginning of the six-hour summit that was convened by Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto in hopes of starting a dialogue to put an end to what is considered not just a local problem, but a global one.

Cortez Masto plans to introduce a sex trafficking bill in the Legislature next month. Assembly Bill 67 would toughen penalties for pimps, who, upon conviction, could serve a maximum of 20 years in prison for their deeds. The maximum now is four years. The bill would let the women sue their pimps. It would also change the name of the crime itself from “pandering,” something many people don’t even understand, to “sex trafficking.” The bill would abolish the right of the pimps to waive preliminary hearings and immediately set trial dates. It’s a judicial loophole that is often used to delay justice by a year or two, by which time the victims either change their minds or are nowhere to be found when their time to testify rolls around.

As for those pimps who sell children on the streets, they would face life in prison with the possibility of parole not until 10 years. And in such cases, prosecutors wouldn’t have to prove that there was any force or coercion because the victims are children and, by law, cannot have consensual sex. About 103 children, most of them between the ages of 15 and 17, were either arrested or recovered by the Las Vegas Police Department’s Vice Squad in 2012.

One commonly overlooked solution is to invest in treatment. A safe haven in Las Vegas is long overdue. District Judge William Voy has been pushing for some sort of safe haven as far back as 2006, when his docket was full of girls appearing before him shackled at the hands and feet, as though they were the criminals instead of the victims.

As for Andrea Swanson, she is trying to re-establish what has long been a frayed relationship with her daughter. She has learned that trying to physically prevent her daughter from doing something just doesn’t work. “I want to get the spirit of my daughter back,” she said. “It’s going to take time, but I’m going to do it.”

Learn more at Tom Ragan’s Las Vegas Review-Journal article: Sex trafficking horror revealed.

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