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Legislature To Take Up Problem Of Human Trafficking

Several bills addressing human trafficking are making their way through the Wisconsin legislature. Advocates hope the bills make it easier to prosecute human traffickers and empower victims.

Laws aimed at fighting human trafficking in Wisconsin have only been in effect since 2008, but the state Department of Justice says the problem continues to grow, especially in the sex trade industry.

There are at least five human trafficking-related bills that have been or will soon be introduced in the legislature.

One bill would allow a victim who's been sexually exploited to sue his or her abusers. State Rep. Jill Billings of La Crosse is one of the bill's authors, and says it could help a victim start a new life.

“They have no healthy legal job record for a résumé,” Billings says. “They have not had the opportunity to develop healthy relationships and families and have children. So I think they should be able to sue for civil damages, to be able to recover part of that lost life.”

Other bills propose changing the definition of human trafficking, making it easier to prosecute certain cases and better protect victims.

Another bill would expunge a person's record if they committed a crime while a victim of human trafficking.

End Domestic Violence Wisconsin public policy coordinator Tony Gibart says the legislature's activity shows that people are paying attention, “and that our legislators and leaders in the state are beginning to understand this issue and really commit to bringing the resources of both the criminal justice system — and for survivors and victims of human trafficking — to address this issue.”

Gibart says many people still don't realize that human trafficking exists in Wisconsin.

From: Wisconsin Public Radio