HARRISBURG – It’s the second largest criminal enterprise in the world and one of the fastest growing, and it’s happening in Pennsylvania – human trafficking. The House Judiciary Committee, led by chairman Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), today took the lead in passing a package of bills aimed at addressing the growing scourge of human trafficking here in the Commonwealth.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of using them for forced labor or sexual exploitation.
“The committee moved several House bills onto the full chamber for consideration that would put more teeth into the penalties for those who commit this heinous crime,” said Kauffman. “The number of cases continues to rise and catching these criminals is often quite difficult with victims being too scared, threatened, drug addicted or manipulated by their traffickers to actively reach out for help.”
Kauffman said in order to deter these criminal acts and provide greater protections and venues for recourse for victims, the House Judiciary Committee recently approved several bills pertaining to this crime:
• House Bill 231
would add certain acts to existing law that, if committed, constitute the crime of unlawful contact with a minor to include human trafficking offenses involving sexual servitude and other offenses involving sexual abuse of a minor.
• House Bill 246
would prohibit defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization and allegations of past sexual victimization in a human trafficking prosecution.
• House Bill 580
would expand the list of offenses for which an expert may testify on the dynamics of sexual violence in sexual assault and domestic violence cases to include human trafficking offenses involving sexual servitude and other criminal offenses involving sexual abuse of a minor.
• House Bill 753
would increase the grading for the offense of “Dealing in Infant Children” from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the first degree.
• House Bill 843
would add human trafficking offenses to the list of convictions affecting a child custody determination. If a party has one of these convictions and seeks child custody, the court must first determine that the party does not pose a threat of harm to the child before entering a custody order in the party’s favor.
• House Bill 1130
would add human trafficking offenses involving sexual servitude to the list of offenses requiring registration under the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
• House Bill 1147
would expand the list of offenses that require state inmates to attend and participate in a Department of Corrections program of counseling or therapy designed for sex offenders to those convicted of human trafficking offenses involving sexual servitude or other criminal offenses involving sexual abuse of a minor.
Kauffman also personally authored House Bill 1096
, which would alter the venue for a statutory civil action available for a victim of the sex trade. Currently, an individual who is a victim of the sex trade may bring an action in the court of common pleas where the individual resides. The bill would allow such an action also to be brought in the court of common pleas where the alleged violations occurred.
Each of the bills passed the committee with bipartisan support and now go before the full House for a vote.
If you or someone you know is the victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
Representative Rob Kauffman
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman