If you’ve followed State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), you know of her committment to the issue of human trafficking. It has been a top priority of hers even back when she was a state Senator. So it will be no surprise that she is continuing her fight against the horrible reality with new legislation to protect children who are the victims of human trafficking. The “Safe Harbor for Exploited Children” act (House Bill 262) would help human trafficking victims return to society.
“Under Ohio current law, minors who are victims of human trafficking are arrested as prostitutes and incarcerated. Minors who cannot legally consent to sex should not be considered prostitutes,” said Rep. Fedor. “Furthermore, a minor who has been commercially sexually exploited should not be incarcerated, but should receive treatment to help the crime victim re-enter society.”
Human trafficking is defined as the sexual or labor exploitation of one person by another. Generally, traffickers prey on the most vulnerable in society, they exploit them, and they keep any profits from the forced labor. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and globally there are more slaves today than during any other time in history. The United States is part of the worldwide trafficking network, and American children are sexually exploited yearly. In Ohio, 3,000 children are at risk of exploitation, and as many as 1,700 children (under the age of 18) are recruited into the sex industry every year (Trafficking In Person Study Commission of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, 2009.)
Rep. Fedor’s Safe Harbor Act will provide a “safe harbor” for minor victims of human trafficking. HB 262 requires that a minor be given appropriate services and prevents a child victim from being charged with solicitation.
Several other states have already enacted safe harbor legislation. Also, the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) contains safe harbor provisions, and this bill would bring Ohio in line with federal law.
Rep. Fedor has been a leader in the fight against human trafficking for years. She was the primary sponsor of legislation signed into law December 2010 that made human trafficking a 2nd degree felony. Her battle against this exploitation continues with the follow-up legislation that she introduced today.
Her bill will now be assigned to the appropriate Ohio House committee for hearings.