Jul 08 2014
Legislation Aims to Combat Human Trafficking, Empower Victims
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., has introduced new legislation, the “End Trafficking Act of 2014,” S. 2564, to fight the spread of human trafficking, prosecute those who perpetrate these crimes, and empower victims.
“Every state in America has been affected by human trafficking,” Wicker said. “Each year, thousands of people in this country – through no fault of their own – are forced into modern-day slavery and robbed of their basic freedoms. It is an ugly and evil crime that disproportionately affects women and young girls. This legislation addresses the complex issues associated with this war on women, what drives it, and enables victims to receive the help they deserve.”
The Polaris Project, an independent advocacy group, estimates there were more than 5,000 potential trafficking cases in the United States last year. However, the precise number of domestic victims is unknown.
A centerpiece of the bill is its court-based pilot program modeled after Hawaii’s “girls courts” and the federal drug court system. Juvenile trafficking victims are often charged with a delinquency offense in order to be detained and kept away from their traffickers. Many laws on prostitution do not differentiate between adult prostitutes and children who have been exploited for sex.
“Detention alone does not amount to rescue,” Wicker continued. “This provision would put the well-being of the victim first, providing an opportunity for victims to return home and undergo treatment. These minors should be considered victims but are often treated as offenders and fail to receive the adequate counseling and support they need.”
Wicker’s bill also focuses on both traffickers and buyers by stressing the need for strict enforcement of laws already on the books that prohibit the purchase of sex with minors; providing longer statutory limitations for child victims to file a civil suit against their trafficker; and prosecuting those who distribute or benefit financially from commercial advertising that promotes prostitution.
“Fighting human trafficking within our borders will not completely solve the problem,” Wicker concluded. “More than 21 million people worldwide are affected by this scourge. The United States, however, should serve as a model for other countries to follow and better protect those here at home.”
Highlights of S. 2564 include:
- Creating a pilot program of continuing judicial supervision for child trafficking victims;
- Providing incentives for states to clamp down on those who purchase commercial sex;
- Enhancing penalties for various forms of trafficking;
- Eliminating duplication in existing federal grant programs to achieve efficiencies;
- Facilitating interagency collaboration; and
- Criminalizing the knowing distribution of commercial advertising that promotes prostitution.