Lawmakers Hear Heartbreaking Stories of Human Trafficking.

CARSON CITY, NV - The testimony was sometimes emotional and shocking, but at all times sobering Wednesday morning as members of both the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees heard testimony on the problem of human trafficking and a bill designed to combat it.

It is, they were told, already a huge problem in Nevada and growing and its victims are often the very young.

"A pimp controls all aspects of a prostitutes life," a Las Vegas Metro detective told them. "What she eats, what she drinks, what she thinks, the clothes that she wears, her hair style. He controls everything."

In fact, the lawmakers were told, the young victims are treated worse than livestock. Sold, beaten and sometimes tattooed with their pimp's name.
Reno Police Sergeant Ron Chalmers says in one recent case, the pimp and three of his prostitutes had the same tattoo--his name.:

"It's his way of showing his ownership of the girl," says Chalmers.

It's branding them?

"Absolutely. That's what we call it in court. It's branding."

Though many prostitutes are now adults, witnesses said, that doesn't mean they are consenting. The prime target for recruitment are the young.

"We've had cases in the past year of kids as young as 12 or 14 that we've recovered from our streets," Chalmers says.

Amy Ayoub was an underage recruit to the sex trade. Decades later she was telling her story to a room of legislators explaining first hand how pimps control their victims.

"Pimps are physically violent," she says, "and if they're not beating you every moment, which they're not, there's the threat of that."

And that fear can block attempts to prosecute. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto says pimps often waive preliminary hearing and go straight to trial and that gives them time to intimidate their victims before they can be heard.

Her solution, give the prosecutor the right to demand a preliminary hearing.
"It preserves the testimony of the witness because quite often in these cases what we see is when you get to trial, she's nowhere to be found because she's been threatened."

She says the bill would strengthen the hand of the legal system, provide stiffer penalties and treat those forced into the life as victims rather than criminals.

Everyone admits, however, that the state has little in the way of support and treatment.

"There really isn't except the on line meetings," says Aubrey Hall who says she was brought to Nevada and forced by her pimp to work at Storey County's Old Bridge Brothel when she was 19.

She's trying to start a local chapter of Sex Workers Anonymous to help former prostitutes recover and help those who want to leave the life.

Most who testified supported the bill, The only opposition came from the American Civil Liberties Union and defense attorneys who worried about the provision giving the prosecutor the right to insist on a preliminary hearing even if the defendant wants to waive his right.

The Attorney General says the provision would apply only to sex trafficking cases and she's confident it could withstand any constitutional challenge.


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