The fact that children are sexually exploited every day, sometimes without even understanding they are being sold for sex, is a dark reality in Clark County.
Every Wednesday, without failure, Judge William Voy of the Juvenile Justice Court in Clark County hears the cases of teenagers busted for an array of crimes, but even though their crimes may vary, the one thing they all have in common is they all have a history of being sexually exploited.
“Most of the kids coming through my court, that get arrested and brought in here on this, they’re not at the point yet,” Judge Voy said. “They don’t perceive themselves as being victims, and it’s a struggle to get them to that reality.”
On paper, the minors are considered criminals, but Judge Voy says locking them up is not the answer. He says they need to be in a secure place where they can get the help they need.
“If you put them in a group home, a group home parents can’t hold on to them, can’t put hands on the kid so they can run,” Voy said.
For more than a decade, he’s been advocating for a safe house in Clark County for the youth. But, the project hasn’t had legs due to a lack of funding.
“Convincing whether its the philanthropist out there in the world, here in Clark County or its the elected or the agencies that we need to spend this kind of money to help this population, well, it’s been a struggle,” Judge Voy said.
Aside from group homes, another option to rehabilitate young victims is to send them away to a youth center. According to Judge Voy, some have proven to be successful, but there’s always the issue of capacity. Other institutions require clinical diagnoses.
“They have to meet certain medical model-type requirements to be there and a lot these kids don’t qualify for that,” said Judge Voy.
Without the proper correctional care and willingness to change, there’s a high probability that Judge Voy will continue the same faces.
“To me, I don’t count us as a failure until we’ve lost jurisdiction of the kid because we keep trying,” Voy said. “That’s the whole point of juvenile court right?”
Advocacy groups believe social media has made it easier for pimps to find victims and customers. Judge Voy says he has also noticed more criminal street gangs involved in sex trafficking rings.