Victims of sex trafficking would no longer be punished and charged with prostitution, but would instead receive social services and treatment, according to the provisions of a law passed by the Kentucky House of Representatives this week. The bill, which passed 95-0, is intended to make it easier to combat human trafficking in the state of Kentucky.
Over 150 calls reporting sex trafficking incidents in Kentucky were made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Over 100 victims of sex trafficking received services from a single private Catholic charity in Louisville. Yet in spite of these numbers, fewer than 20 total cases have been filed in the state of Kentucky since 2008. The vast majority of these cases involved women trafficked by relatives. Women who were trafficked, instead of receiving help, were more often arrested and jailed for prostitution offenses.
Much of the problem, according to several state lawmakers, comes from a lack of education and training in police departments about how to successfully identify what sex trafficking looks like. With so much emphasis on arresting prostitutes and their clientele, many police departments lose sight of the fact that the prostitutes being arrested may not have been selling their bodies willingly.
The new law includes provisions that would allocate funding for police training on trafficking issues. After receiving training, police should be better able to identify trafficking victims and prosecute their traffickers.
If the bill becomes law, sex traffickers will face a $10,000 fine in addition to having to pay back any financial gains from their sex trafficking activities. They would also be required to forfeit any houses or other property that had been used for illegal trafficking activities, from prostitution to moving trafficked women. Any money from traffickers would be put into a fund that would benefit victims, including providing social services and assistance with re-entering normal life outside of prostitution.
While the unanimous passage of the bill in the Kentucky House gives anti-trafficking advocates a reason to be hopeful about its chances, it hasn't yet passed the last hurdle. Last time a similar bill was passed in the House, the Kentucky Senate allowed the bill to die in committee. Now that the House has voted in favor of the bill, the Senate will take a look over the coming weeks. It is expected that the bill will be signed by the governor if it makes it past the state Senate.
Source: ky.gov, courier-journal.com