Reichert proposes sex trafficking legislation

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 13, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 13 at 6:54 PM

Mandy Urwiler was a victim of the sex trade without ever having entered it.  At 13 years old, she was approached by pimps at her Seattle school, who coerced to sell her body for their profit.

"When class let out, they continued to try to get me to be their whore. I said no. One time they shoved me on the ground. They kicked me when I was down. They beat my head against the ground all because I said no," said Urwiler.

Across the country some 400,000 youth at are risk of falling into prostitution. About 1/4 of them are foster kids like Mandy. She says pimps prey on foster children because they are often broken and vulnerable.

"These predators, they watch. They look at your body language and see someone with low self esteem," she said. "They're experts at reading people."

On Thursday, Washington Congressman Dave Reichert introduced legislation to better protect foster children and roll back the rising tide of underage prostitution in America.

"This is a matter of life and death," he said.

Reichert's proposal would require states to identify children at risk of prostitution and provide training for caseworkers. There would be better tracking foster care runaways, and more would be done to move more kids into permanent homes.

"We are not going to stop until we have every child off the street," he said.

Foster child advocate Jim Theofelis of Seattle's Mockingbird Society said society's mentality must change.

"We need to have the community and law enforcement look at these young people not as criminals, but as victims in this process," he said.

As for Mandy Urwiler, she's now 19 and works for a foster care organization. She encourages foster children to have the courage endure the coercion and even the violence to stay out the sex trade, like she did.

"I don't want anyone else to have to go through that."

Read a more complete summary of the proposed legislation.
 

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