Alaska task force holds hearing on sex trafficking; authorities say problem is underreported

Experts testifying before a new Alaska task force on sex trafficking say the teenage victims often are too afraid and embarrassed, and sometimes too addicted to drugs, to come forward.

The comments were made Monday at a hearing to address sex trafficking, which authorities say is notoriously underreported.

The state task force aims to gauge the prevalence of human trafficking and prostitution in Alaska, as well as the services available to help victims. It also plans a December public hearing in Bethel.

State lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation that established the task force and created harsher penalties for the crime.

The legislation was sponsored by Gov. Sean Parnell. It also called for removing the label of "prostitute" from victims and changing court procedures to expedite justice.