Commentary: Legislation gives human trafficking victims fair shot

Human trafficking victims experience realities many of us cannot imagine.

They are exploited, and face the threat of violence and false promises of security to keep them under the control of their trafficker.

We, as a society, must not lose sight of the fact that they are the victims in what is all too often described as a victimless crime. Moreover, for many individuals who have been trafficked, returning to this cycle of abuse is easier than breaking free. And we do not make choosing the right path any easier.

Kim Williams

Under Delaware law, human trafficking victims do not have the protections they need to successfully return to society. That’s why we introduced two bills aimed at easing that transition.

Introduced by Sen. Nicole Poore, SB 60 will ensure that children cannot be convicted of prostitution.

Children should not be punished for the forced sale of their bodies. Instead, we must protect and rehabilitate them from the trauma brought upon them by human trafficking.

Human trafficking is traumatic and has lifelong consequences. These victims need counseling and intervention, not criminal records.

We also need to ensure that human trafficking victims, regardless of their age, have the support they need to live their lives to the fullest. HB 102, championed by Rep. Kim Williams, will allow victims of human trafficking to get a clean slate, giving them expanded opportunities to jobs, housing, and education. With the exception of violent felonies, these victims will have a clear path to expungement.

Nicole Poore

Additionally, the bill will expand the Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council to encourage more public awareness on the issue.

According to the Polaris Project, between 2007 and 2017, 41,000 cases of human trafficking were reported nationwide. Of those, 91 were reported in Delaware. We are uniquely positioned along the I-95 corridor, and can make a real difference with these expanded services. Delaware must take an interdisciplinary approach and bring all stakeholders to the table to effectively address this problem.

Human trafficking effectively silences victims. With this legislation, we are taking them out of the shadows and helping them find the pathway to rehabilitation and productive lives.

Our criminal justice policies must be focused redemption rather than retribution because the path to a better Delaware is through rehabilitation, not criminalization. There is perhaps no greater example of this than the victims of human trafficking.

Rep. Kim Williams represents the 19th Representative District, which covers Newport. Sen. Nicole Poore represents the 12th Senate District, covering New Castle.

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