Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed into a law on Tuesday a bill that will help victims of sex trafficking more easily escape trafficking without fear of being punished.
The law allows victims of human trafficking to clear prostitution convictions, even if the person convicted has been found guilty of committing other crimes, a common occurrence with victims of human trafficking, according to a report by the Seattle Times.
Governing Magazine reports the “new measure states any motion filed to vacate a prostitution conviction must prove ‘by a preponderance of the evidence’ that the applicant’s conviction, along with any other crimes committed, was a result of being a ‘victim of trafficking, promoting prostitution in the first degree or promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor.’”
Many people trapped in human trafficking in the United States fear that they cannot go to law enforcement officials because they could be prosecuted for breaking various state laws.
“This is important in our fight against human trafficking because it removes a significant barrier to leaving prostitution,” Inslee said at the bill’s signing.
“They made it through and overcame such difficult hurdles only to be retriggered and to find doors close on them,” said state Sen. Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle), according to the Seattle Times. “The hurdles were so high that not a single person had been able to access what was supposedly their right.”
Recent studies conducted by The Field Center for Children’s Policy, the University of Pennsylvania and the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola University (New Orleans) found nearly 20 percent of homeless youth in the United States claim to be victims of human trafficking.
The Global Slavery Index reports there were an estimated 45.8 million people in some form of modern slavery in 2016. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center says there were more than 3,500 cases of sex trafficking in the United States in 2016.