Two Missouri lawmakers are proposing stricter sex trafficking laws.
U.S Representative Ann Wagner joined State Representative Elijah Haahr to testify before a Missouri House committee Wednesday. Haahr presented a bill that would outlaw advertisements that promote sexual activity with a minor. Under Missouri law, publishing advertisements for sexual activity with a minor is not a crime.
Wagner has proposed a similar bill at the federal level.
“We are trying to raise awareness and education on the issue at all levels, but a legislation must evolve,” said Wagner. “An individual can actually order up a little girl to their hotel room as easily as they could a pepperoni pizza.”
Both Haahr and Wagner agree that many of these types of advertisements can be found on mobile apps and websites like Backpage.com, but ads can also be seen on printed flyers at truck stops. Haahr says the $9.5 billion dollar industry is a real problem and warns that it’s growing in Missouri.
“Just last year, I believe there was a mom in southeast Missouri that was advertising one of her children for sale online,” said Haahr. “There’s no limit to what they’ll do and as the dad of four kids, obviously that is something that concerns me greatly.”
Dozens of people testified in support of the bill, including a sex trafficking survivor from Mid-Missouri. Jessica Luebbert says she became a victim when she responded to an advertisement for a modeling job.
“I thought I was going on a modeling trip to Maui,” said Luebbert. “And I was, before I knew it, I was drugged and I was in Maui.”
There was no opposition and Haahr’s bill is expected to pass smoothly through the legislature.