Former Child Prostitute Speaks Out on Pending Law - 8 News NOW

Former Child Prostitute Speaks Out on Pending Law

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LAS VEGAS -- At 13-years-old, when many girls are focused on entering high school, Teresa Harder was being groomed for a life of prostitution.

"I would go to visit my so-called uncle at this corner, who I later found out was a pimp," Harder said.

It was at that young age that Harder experienced her first run-in with police.

"They (police) treated me as a prostitute," she said. "This is how you're treated if you are a young girl and you want to be a prostitute and be with pimps."

The memory seared in her mind and is now driving her to support two bills introduced in the Nevada Legislature by Assemblyman John Hambrick.

Assembly Bill 241 would change how the justice system treats children like Harder.

2013 Nevada Legislature Bill Tracker

Instead of criminals, the minors would be viewed as victims, eventually treated physically and mentally in safe houses.

Metro Police Lt. Karen Hughes said the countless children coerced into prostitution need rehabilitation, not jail time.

"To where these kids can be brought in and transitioned off the streets away from the traffickers and the pimps," she said.

Those who oppose the bill said the proposed legislation is too generic and can be confusing.

"It has all kinds of holes and we can't treat people as a criminal and keep them in custody or do GPS monitoring and treat them as a victim at the same time," said Lisa Rasmussen, who was speaking on behalf of Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

Assembly Bill 280 is also up for debate.

It aims to increase penalties for so-called Johns who solicit sex, from minor violations to possibly life in prison.

Even with heavy opposition for both bills, Harder said those laws would have spared her years of prostitution.

"Had I not been treated how I was treated and had there been a protocol in place, that's why I am here," she said. "I truly think it would have saved me from the next 27 years of a dead life."

No action was taken on either bill today.

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