On Monday, June 25, 2018 the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force celebrated a milestone in the legal protections for individuals who have experienced human trafficking in our state with the signing of HB 1260.
HB 1260 adds offenses related to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which bail can be denied, keeping traffickers in jail and assist in keeping victims out of harm’s way.
This bill, proposed by Delegate Mike Mullin of the 93rd District and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam, received bipartisan support and was championed by Attorney General Mark Herring in conjunction with the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force. Mullin has worked as a prosecutor in Suffolk, often working on cases involving domestic violence and sexual violence.
“What I saw firsthand is that people who were being charged with crimes related to human trafficking get out on bond, skip town and are never held accountable for their crimes,” Mullin said. “Working with the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, we were able to identify the four crimes that are the most linked to human trafficking.”
The legislation adds the following offenses that are attributable to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which there is a rebuttable presumption against admission to bail:-
- Taking or detaining a person for the purposes of prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse.
- Receiving money from procuring or placing a person in a house of prostitution or forced labor.
- Receiving money from the earnings of a prostitute.
- Commercial sex trafficking, where the alleged victim is a family or household member.
Governor Northam, who is a native of Norfolk, urged the importance of fighting this issues with a strong, collaborative effort. “Human trafficking is a threat to public safety here in Virginia and across the United States,” said Northam. “This legislation will help us prevent these crimes by making it more difficult for human traffickers to post bail and leave jail to intimidate witnesses or continue their criminal activity. I am proud to sign this legislation today and I thank Delegate [Mike] Mullin and Attorney General Herring for their commitment to this issue.”
Samaritan House’s Executive Director, Robin Gauthier, introduced Delegate Mullin and shared a bit about the successes of the Task Force and how this added legislation will further protect victims of trafficking.
“Protecting people that have been trafficked and abused is our mission. When legislation promotes survivor safety, it’s a shared win every time,” Gauthier said.
We are very excited for this milestone in the fight to end human trafficking in Hampton Roads and Virginia as a whole!
What will this bill look like in action?
Before the signing of HB1260, a trafficker or pimp in Virginia could be arrested on charges of trafficking but be released on a secured or unsecured bond, meaning that they could flee town with the women or men under their control and continue this despicable crime in a new town. This bill will take active traffickers off the street, keeping them from further abusing their victims by breaking that cycle of abuse.
Now, with the adoption of this bill, someone brought into custody on charges of trafficking will be far less likely to ever receive bail. In fact, the court will have to get approval from the Commonwealth Attorney to even make an exception to release the suspect on bond, in the event that they are not deemed a flight risk, nor a danger to society.
Traffickers may be controlling women or men in multiple states, with complex systems in place for exerting control and intimidation on them. Remember that not all human trafficking is sex trafficking – it also can be forced labor or domestic servitude.
For the individuals who are being trafficked, they may be less likely to reach out to receive support services if they are fearful that their trafficker is going to be released and they will not be safe.
Our Anti-Human Trafficking Victim Advocate, Ann Carey, shared that this is certainly going to add protections to our clients and future trafficking clients. “When we work with a new client, they will often tell us how they escaped from their trafficker,” she said. “They were in a place where physically and psychologically they were trapped and controlled by their trafficker and could not leave even if they wanted to.”
Victims of human trafficking may experience any of the following as a result of the multiple, repeated traumas they have endured: drug and alcohol dependence, depression, anxiety, PTSD, STD’s, stress disorders, suicidal thoughts, pregnancy, health issues, trauma bonds, Stockholm Syndrome, complex low self worth and other injuries or illnesses.
This is a big win for the fight to end trafficking in our region, but we are not giving up yet. We are still urging for continued increase in awareness, training and education both in the community and with judicial professionals and law enforcement to properly recognize and charge trafficking crimes. Understanding the difference between a person committing a crime versus being a victim is crucial.
If you would like to make a contribution toward the fight to end human trafficking in Hampton Roads, please click HERE.
If you would like to learn more about how human trafficking affects our region, please contact our Community Outreach Coordinator HERE.