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Washington State Protects Sex Trafficking Victims With New Bill

Human trafficking is a serious problem in the United States. According to statistics, about 21 million people have been taken and used in some sort of trafficking, with about 68 percent forced into labor, 22 percent into sexual exploitation, and 10 percent into state-imposed labor. Though this issue is clearly prevalent in our country today, it is still often regarded as one that occurs only in foreign countries. The fact is that many people are trapped in sex trafficking in the United States. Many are either unable to get out of their situation, or afraid that if they go to law enforcement officials they will be in danger of being found and exploited by their traffickers once more.

To combat this fear and promote the safe recovery of sex trafficking victims, Washington State recently passed a bill aimed to protect victims from their traffickers. On April 17, the House of Representatives passed the bill from Attorney General Bob Ferguson with incredible bipartisan support. It passed the House with a 98-0 vote, and previously passed the Senate on April 5 with a 48-0 vote.

Ferguson stated, “Survivors of human trafficking are often harassed and threatened by their former traffickers after they come forward to law enforcement. This legislation provides an important legal tool to safeguard these survivors.”

The bill established “a specific human trafficking criminal no-contact order, which courts and law enforcement will use to safeguard victims from their traffickers.” Previously, the state of Washington did not characterize human trafficking and promoting prostitution as sex offenses. Because of this, the only criminal no-contact order available to aid victims of trafficking was a domestic violence no-contact order. The term domestic violence does not accurately characterize the relationship between traffickers and their victims, so it was not an effective means of protecting the victims.

Tina Orwall, a sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives, said, “Tragically, the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, who is generally a teenager, is actually one of a predator taking advantage of an underage youth. This bill creates protections and helps law enforcement assist these young victims. I am relieved that we’re sending this bill to the governor’s desk and I am grateful to all the people who worked hard to make that happen.”

This bill provides great assistance to victims as they recover and get back to safety. To continue moving forward we need more visibility and legislation designed to criminalize traffickers and save victims.

Featured Image by Joe Mabel on Flickr

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