After receiving unanimous support in the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate, legislation that combats human trafficking and helps victims could soon be law.
State Rep. Wendy McNamara (R – Evansville), chair of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, sponsors the bill. She says Senate Enrolled Act 155, now pending the governor’s approval, will increase penalties for human traffickers while also making it easier to prosecute them.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 140 cases of trafficking in Indiana in 2020. That’s up from 95 in 2017.
Current law states that criminals who purchase sex from a trafficked person receive a less severe penalty than the trafficker. This proposed legislation would increase the penalty to a Level 4 Felony, carrying a sentence between two and 12 years in prison — matching the penalty for traffickers. The legislation would also eliminate a person’s defense that an underage trafficking victim gave consent for a sexual act.
“Victims of human trafficking can’t give consent, because they’re already being forced or coerced by their trafficker,” McNamara said.
Indiana law also currently requires people 15 years old and older to testify in court. This legislation would allow survivors 14 years or younger at the time of their assault to submit a video statement if they are younger than 18 at the time of the trial.
In addition, this legislation would also require law enforcement agencies to report any human trafficking investigations to the Office of the Indiana Attorney General.
To report a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. For more information, visit humantraffickinghotline.org.