HARRISBURG - In order to combat a hidden, yet widespread, problem and recognize National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, held a voting meeting of the committee today to move a package of bills aimed at combatting the crime of human trafficking.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. The International Labour Organization estimates human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, of which $99 billion belongs to sexual exploitation.
“Human trafficking is a very real and serious problem across our country and here in the Commonwealth,” said Kauffman. “Although we have laws already on the books to address this crime, there is much more we can and should do to help victims, arm law enforcement with the tools they need to catch and convict these criminals, and hold traffickers and those who participate in the trade accountable. I am proud to have been able to support the passage of this package of bills out of my committee.”
Pennsylvania is currently ranked 10th in the nation in the list of top human trafficking states, according to the website Insider Monkey. And, according to the National Hotline 2018 Pennsylvania State Report, from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018, in Pennsylvania there were 621 human trafficking victims identified, 215 traffickers identified and 101 trafficking businesses identified.
“The threat is real, and we need to be proactive and decisive in combatting this heinous crime that preys on vulnerable citizens, particularly minors,” said Kauffman.
Bills in the package are as follows:
• House Bill 161
– Would reclassify the offense of trafficking infants as a first-degree felony.
• House Bill 2174
– Would prohibit defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization and allegations of past sexual victimization in any prosecution related to human trafficking.
• House Bill 2175
– Would expand the list of offenses where an expert may testify about the dynamics of sexual violence and victim responses to sexual violence.
• House Bill 2176
– Would add certain prohibited activities to existing law that, if committed, constitute the crime of unlawful contact with a minor.
• House Bill 2177
– Would expand the list of sexual offenses that require offenders to attend and participate in a Department of Corrections program of counseling and therapy designed for incarcerated sex offenders.
• House Bill 2178
– Would amend Pennsylvania’s child custody statute to require a court to consider whether a party or member of that party’s household has been convicted of human trafficking prior to awarding child custody to that party.
• Senate Bill 60
– Would provide increased penalties regarding human trafficking and patronizing a victim of sexual servitude.
• House Resolution 618
– Would recognize the month of January 2020 as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.
“These bills will hold those driving this industry more accountable and help victims get the justice they deserve,” said Kauffman. “Sadly, this is often a hidden crime because victims are reluctant to seek help due to language barriers, fear of their traffickers and/or fear of law enforcement. We need to shine a greater light into this insidious crime and help those who are being targeted.”
The package of bills unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full House for a vote.
To report suspected human trafficking to federal law enforcement, call 1-866-347-2423. To receive help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to 233733.
Representative Rob Kauffman
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman
Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, led a voting meeting of the committee to move a package of bills aimed at combatting the crime of human trafficking.