The growing problem of human trafficking has resulted in Senate passage of two bills aimed at helping the victims of this crime. House Bill 1058 by Sen. Nathan Dahm and Rep. Sally Kern and House Bill 1067 by Sen. A.J. Griffin and Rep. Lee Denney were approved in the Senate on Thursday.
A crime that affects mainly women and children, the State Department has identified the United States as the #1 destination for child sex trafficking. With Oklahoma at the crossroads of I-35 and I-40, the state has seen a tremendous increase in this crime, with several notorious cases making headlines in recent years. Dahm said HB 1058 is intended to help survivors of human trafficking.
“It allows a charge to be expunged if that person was forced into prostitution as a victim of human trafficking,” said Dahm, R-Tulsa. “What happens to these victims is not their fault. They need to be able to have their record expunged in order to move on with their lives.”
Kern said the legislation was an important step forward in how Oklahoma deals with human trafficking.
“I think it is a necessary bill that will protect the victims of this crime as they seek to rebuild their lives without having the unnecessary burden of a criminal record,” said Kern, R-Oklahoma City.
Griffin said HB 1067 is aimed more specifically at minor victims of human trafficking who are forced into the sex trade.
“It does several things—it requires peace officers to notify those victims of the services that are available and make sure the proper authorities with the Department of Human Services are notified. It also assumes that individuals who are minors involved in the crime of prostitution have been coerced to participate in that activity,” said Griffin, R-Guthrie. “They are survivors of a horrible crime and as such we need to help, not punish them.”
Denney explained it is important to recognize that when human traffickers force children and teens into prostitution, it’s the traffickers who are the criminals.
“I believe it is vital to protect our children who have been drawn into human trafficking and abuse,” said Denney, R-Cushing. “We need to protect them from prosecution and focus instead on restoring their mental and physical wholeness.”
Both measures now go to Gov. Mary Fallin for her approval.