Human trafficking is the second-largest criminal activity in the world, as well as the second-most lucrative. In Indiana, there were 83 human trafficking cases reported and 268 calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016 alone. To combat this pervasive crime, House Republicans are proposing legislation to crack down on offenders and help victims get the help they need.

Under current law, health practitioners are required to report all suspected human trafficking patients, regardless of age, to social services and local law enforcement. When referred to authorities, victims 18 years of age or older could potentially be tried for prostitution or face possible retribution from their trafficker. According to medical professionals and advocates, this discourages those victims from seeking help. Proposed legislation would remove the requirement to report suspected adult human trafficking victims and instead, would encourage and require licensed health care providers to offer information about community resources and services, such as a 24/7 victim hotline.

Another proposal would create separate offenses for human and sex trafficking. This would make it easier for law enforcement to crack down on specific offenders and trafficking networks. This legislation would expand Indiana’s Rape Shield Statute to include victims of human trafficking and require law enforcement to notify the Department of Child Services of a possible trafficking victim if they are under 18 years of age, which would help young victims by placing them in protective custody. This measure would also call for the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to look into of what specific authority a law enforcement officer has in order to take custody of a child when the officer suspects he or she is a victim of human trafficking.

By improving how human trafficking cases are handled from the start and cracking down on offenders, Indiana can continue to bolster our fight against these crimes and help keep Hoosiers safe. If you or someone you know suspects that a person is a victim of human trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888 or visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.