WNPA News Service
Sex traffickers often manipulate their victims with lies or threats and force them to participate in sexual acts, and the most vulnerable victims are between the ages of 12 and 18.
“Sex trafficking is rampant, indiscriminate and insidious, especially among youth, but it’s rarely thought as (of as) such,” said Ria Bahadur, a member of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council at Eastside Preparatory School.
“I like to believe humans are good people, and I like to believe when given the right education, we’re stronger and smarter than any pimp out there,” she said.
To make children stronger and more aware, Bahadur helped shape a bill sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Seattle, which is now moving through the state Legislature. The bill requires school districts to provide education on sex trafficking and identification at least once between seventh and 12th grade.
The bill was approved in the Senate and now moves to the House.
The instruction would need to be implemented by the 2024-25 school year and can be a standalone course or integrated into an existing relevant course.
It would need to include reporting systems and basic training to determine if an individual is at risk of being a victim or is a victim of sex trafficking.
Wilson said Washington state is the sixth largest area for sex trafficking in the country, and more than 45 percent of victims are minors in K-12 schools.
“Any time we can do anything that looks at prevention, it’s the most important thing we can do, especially as we’re talking about our kids and our families,” she said.
“I believe that widespread, intersectional, accurate and actionable sex trafficking education is a priceless component of future mitigation for this crime,” Bahadur said. “It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry, but you have to do that with the right information.”
SB 5355 is not the first bill heard in the Legislature relating to sex trafficking. Another bill helps sex trafficked victims heal, but SB 5355 could help keep those individuals from being harmed in the first place, Wilson said.