This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
After just two quick minutes of debate, the Utah House voted Monday to protect instead of punish minors who have been forced into the sex trade.
After visits to the House chamber by high-profile sex abuse victims Elizabeth Smart and Deondra Brown, the House voted 71-0 to pass HB206, and sent it to the Senate.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said youth forced into sex trafficking "must be recognized as victims so that they may receive effective treatment and protection."
Her bill bans delinquency proceedings against them, which she said "further traumatizes these children by reinforcing feelings of worthlessness, isolation," while restricting access to treatment. She said the average age for minors who enter the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old.
Romero has pushed several bills in recent years seeking to prevent sexual abuse, or to help its victims often with the help of Smart and Brown.
Smart was kidnapped in 2002 at the age of 14, and was rescued from captivity a year later. Brown part of the Five Browns piano group and two of her sisters were abused by their father, Keith Brown. He is serving a 10-years-to-life sentence in the Utah State Prison.