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Bill seeks to help state officials understand link between pornography, sex trafficking

Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Stillwater) said pornography is “widely accepted, openly defended and even celebrated,” but it is also used by sex traffickers to train victims to perform acts seen on a screen.

“Pornography and sex trafficking are inextricably linked,” she said. “Pornography drives demand for sex trafficking by contributing to demand, grooming or training victims and creating additional streams for traffickers.”

Sponsored by Lohmer and Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), HF2967/SF2554* would acknowledge that link by expanding the crimes for which the Department of Public Safety must gather statistical data for its human trafficking report to include possession of pornographic work involving minors and prohibition of dissemination and display of harmful materials to minors. The report is published every two years.

Additionally, the department would need to collect information on how pornography supports sex trafficking through things like demand, grooming victims and creating additional revenue streams for traffickers.

Passed 127-0 by the House Thursday, the bill’s next stop is Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk. It was passed unanimously by the Senate May 2.

“Sexual violence advocates who I work with say pornography in the 21st Century is extremely violent and degrading. It is warping the minds of young people who are growing into their sexuality in some really, really awful ways,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul), a Ramsey County attorney. “This current version does contribute to the trafficking of human beings and to the exploitation of human beings as well.”

The bill would also add eight crimes to the list of prostitution-related offenses for which the court imposes an assessment between $500 and $1,000 in addition to any fine. They would include coercion, labor trafficking, solicitation of a child and possession of pornographic work involving minors.

Under current law, 40 percent of that money goes to the local political subdivision that employs the arresting officer to be used to combat sexual exploitation of youth; 40 percent to the state’s safe harbor account that provides services to sexually exploited youth; and 20 percent to the prosecuting agency to be used to combat the sexual exploitation of youth.

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