|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
Pennsylvania is ranked 10th in the nation for human trafficking, and according to the latest report from 2018, 621 human victims were identified, along with 215 traffickers and 101 trafficking businesses. The numbers are troubling and continue to grow.
With those statistics in mind, my colleagues and I on the House Judiciary Committee advanced a package of bills that would combat the crime and ensure justice for victims. The bills are expected to come before the full House for a vote in the week ahead.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. The International Labour Organization estimates human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, of which $99 billion belongs to sexual exploitation.
Several bills aim to increase penalties or expand definitions of crimes related to human trafficking, while another would expand the list of sexual offenses that require offenders to participate in a program of counseling and therapy designed for incarcerated sex offenders.
Other measures would prohibit defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization; expand opportunities for expert testimony in human trafficking cases; and require courts to consider human trafficking convictions when considering child custody.
Finally, the committee approved a resolution to recognize the month of January 2020 as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office