Measures to Protect Child Sex Abuse and Trafficking Victims Stall in Maryland Senate

The Safe Harbor bill, which would prevent criminal prosecution of children who have been trafficked

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Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would protect children who are victims of sex trafficking from facing prosecution and increase penalties against people who abuse children.

Several prosecutors throughout Maryland have said they support the Safe Harbor bill, which would prevent criminal prosecution of children who have been trafficked.

"We should not be seeking to prosecute children who have been abused, but rather to assist them in living full and complete lives," Prince George's County State's Attorney Aisha Braveboy said.

Another bill under consideration would expand the definition of a person with authority, to include those who work in child care, camps, religious institutions and programs outside of school such as sports.

Under that law, those people would face tougher prosecution if they sexually abuse the children they work with.

"It’s an imbalanced relationship where people can take advantage, and they’re taking advantage of our children, Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said.

The Maryland House has passed both bills. Now, the laws are awaiting action in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The legislative session ends April 10.

Survivor S. Monique Smith went to the Senate Tuesday to urge lawmakers to pass the measures.

"You are subject to heinous acts when you’re in the hands of ill people, and, in this case, it was prostitution, drug abuse," Smith said.

State Senator Chris West, who represents Baltimore County, is on the committee that has the bills. He said he expects the person with authority bill to pass the committee Tuesday night and be read on the Senate floor either Wednesday or Thursday.

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