Sex trafficking victims push for law

Photo by Jim Mendoza
Photo by Jim Mendoza

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Against a backdrop of anti sex-trafficking signs, young girls and older women begged legislators for a law to punish pimps and others who profit from prostitution.

Victims told stories of abduction and control.

Charade Keane was targeted by a pimp in Waikiki and tormented in Las Vegas.

"They have cars where you can't open the doors. You're locked in a room. They chain you to a toilet and you're beat up," she said.

A girl we'll call "LT" was a 19-year-old college student when she was raped at gunpoint and threatened unless she worked as a prostitute.

She's hiding from the man who forced her into the sex trade.

"Being out on the streets was the worst and most demeaning thing to me," she said. "What if it was your daughter? What if it was your niece or a friend? Your best friend's daughter?"

Sex trafficking victims testified for House Bill 576 that goes after traffickers, making it a felony.

But city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro told the House Human Services committee that existing prostitution statutes work.

He wants stiffer prison sentences for pimps and stepped up efforts against people who use prostitutes for sex.

"If you remove the demand for prostitution, you can address some of the prostitution problems," he said.

But sex trafficking victims and their relatives want more.

Barbara Burns's teenage daughter was kidnapped, assaulted, then sold by her assailants on a nightly basis.

"When things like this happen to a young girl. It's devastating," she said.

"LT" worked downtown street corners. She said her pimp held a gun to her head every night before and after he forced her to sell herself.

She escaped. But if she hadn't?

"If anything I probably would have grabbed a gun and shot myself with it," she said. "Deep inside me I'll never be the same."

Victims realize a sex trafficking law may not happen this session. But they feel just having their stories heard is a step in the right direction.

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