HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania ranks 10th in the nation in human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, but today Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), a long-time advocate for victims of human trafficking, voted with his House colleagues to pass a package of bills he co-sponsored, which take aim at this worldwide problem. The legislation is now headed to the Senate.
“There were nearly 11,000 victims of human trafficking identified in the United States in 2018 and more than 600 were in Pennsylvania, but the fear experienced by victims and the secretive nature of these crimes tell us the numbers are much, much higher,” said Ryan. “Today, the House unanimously passed a package of legislation that would strengthen Pennsylvania laws to deter human trafficking by severely punishing perpetrators while protecting and empowering its victims.”
In addition to a House resolution recognizing January 2020 as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, lawmakers voted to increase the penalty for patronizing a human trafficking victim and the trafficking of infants to a first-degree felony and would increase associated jail time and fines. The legislation would also expand the list of actionable offenses allowing for expert testimony on the dynamics of sexual violence and victim responses to it and prohibit defendants in human trafficking cases from using a victim’s past sexual history as evidence in their case.
Other bills would strengthen penalties for prohibited activities that, if committed, would constitute the crime of unlawful contact with a minor; expand the list of sexual offenses requiring offenders to participate in the Department of Corrections program of counseling and therapy for jailed sex offenders; and require courts to consider a family member’s human trafficking convictions when deciding child custody cases.
Human traffickers tend to exploit their victims’ vulnerabilities and make them dependent. Those at particular risk of victimization include runaway or homeless youth, recent migrants, people with substance use or mental health issues, or those involved with the child welfare system. Victims are likely living and working in our own communities, but you can help. To report suspected human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
Representative Frank Ryan
101st Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Donna Pinkham