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Alaska sex-trafficking task force holds hearing

Associated Press Modified: November 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm •  Published: November 5, 2012
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The legislation, sponsored by Gov. Sean Parnell, also called for removing the label of "prostitute" from victims and changing court procedures to expedite justice and make the process easier on victims.

Authorities say victims' shame, fear of repercussions and poor support structures are some of the reasons sex trafficking goes unreported.

Authorities testifying Monday said other highly vulnerable targets are Alaska Native girls from rural communities who end up in Anchorage working, then out of innocence recruit young village girls.

Parnell has said he became aware of the issue while in Italy last year. He said he visited a shelter run by a missionary who has helped create more than 100 anti-trafficking shelters around Italy. Parnell and his wife, Sandy, began exploring the extent of the problem in Alaska and ultimately formed the legislation.

At last month's convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives, Sandy Parnell told an audience she was disturbed to learn that young Alaskans have been targeted by sex traffickers during past AFN conventions. She said the task force will report its findings to state legislators by Jan. 15.

"So what is sex trafficking?" Sandy Parnell said. "It is modern-day slavery."