Assemblyman pushes reforms to help end child sex trafficking

When Assemblyman Joseph Errigo on Tuesday recounted the story of a sex-trafficking victim who was burned to death by her pimp, he couldn’t hold back the tears.

“One of the girls had some money under her fake hair and to show what he meant, [the pimp] burned her hair on fire and killed her in front of these girls,” the Western New York Republican said at an Albany press conference while pushing for legislative reforms related to child sex trafficking.

“The pimps won’t let them go. They will kill them.”

Errigo, advocates and other lawmakers want the Assembly to pass a bill that would eliminate the need for victims to testify against their traffickers, making it easier to put pimps behind bars — and for longer periods of time.

New York is one of only two states that requires prosecutors to prove “force, fraud and coercion” to get a sex-trafficking charge in prostitution cases involving minors.

The burden of that proof almost always falls on the victims’ shoulders, making the cases extremely difficult to prosecute.

“Asking her to go to court to prove that she was coerced is a very challenging thing for [my daughter] to do,” said “Jonesie,” a mom whose daughter is a survivor of sex trafficking and whose story was featured in The Post’s recent investigation.

“How does a child . . . sit in a courtroom and prove that they are raped?”

Shanifa Bennett, 21, a survivor of sex trafficking who was also featured by The Post, said the proposed legislation “sends a signal that our legal system has our back.”

“It gives us back the dignity our abusers and society have robbed us of.”

Under the proposed legislation, those who pimp someone under the age of 19 will automatically be charged with sex trafficking.

The bill has faced fierce opposition in the notoriously progressive Codes Committee over the last few years.

Opponents, such as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), are concerned trafficking victims who help recruit other minors into “the life” at the behest of a shared pimp can wind up being charged with sex trafficking.

Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn), the chairman of the Codes Committee, told The Post that staffers are trying to come up with a compromise so the bill can get past committee.

After Tuesday, there are approximately 22 session days left for the bill to pass.

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