Legislation aims to help victims of trafficking

DOVER — Lawmakers on Monday announced two bills they say would help victims of human trafficking.

The result of recommendations from the Delaware Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council, the legislation would aid victims in rebuilding their lives, specify what constitutes prostitution and increase public awareness.

House Bill 102 would enable individuals who are arrested or convicted of any crime other than a violent felony as a result of being forced into human trafficking to get a pardon, expungement or motion to vacate judgement.

“Human trafficking effectively silences victims. With this legislation, we are taking them out of the shadows and helping them find the pathway to rehabilitation,” said Rep. Kim Williams, a Newport Democrat who is the main sponsor.

“Trafficking victims face severe trauma, fear and manipulation, and we should not punish them for being forced to commit crimes against their will. They deserve the opportunity to pursue housing, education and employment without the mark of a criminal record holding them back.”

Senate Bill 60 would bar children from being found guilty of prostitution. A child is defined as anyone under 18.

“It’s so important we stop treating these children as criminals, and start treating them like the victims that they are. Human trafficking is traumatic, and has lifelong consequences,” Senate Majority Leader Nicole Poore, a New Castle Democrat who is the main sponsor, said in a statement. “Victims need counseling and intervention, not criminal records.”

According to an analysis by Polaris Project, nearly 41,000 human trafficking cases were reported nationwide from 2007 to 2017, with 91 in Delaware.

The measures are expected to be filed today.

“With Delaware’s location along the I-95 corridor, human trafficking is a serious concern that needs to be addressed with an all-hands-on-deck approach. The Delaware Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council is committed to helping victims and bringing all stakeholders to the table to combat this issue,” council chair Leslie Brower said in a statement.

“This legislation is a substantial step forward to helping victims rebuild their lives from the trauma of human trafficking, showing them that these experiences do not define them.”

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