Combating human trafficking in Indiana

Posted by: Abigail Campbell  | Friday, February 9, 2018

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that occurs in every state. In 2016, there were 83 human trafficking cases reported and 268 calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in Indiana alone. The most common types of human trafficking in Indiana are sex and labor. This session I am working on legislation that would help combat this horrific crime in our state.

Currently, state law requires health practitioners to report patients, regardless of age, suspected of human trafficking to social services and local law enforcement. If victims are 18 years old, they can be arrested for prostitution when turned into authorities and possibly face retribution from their trafficker. This could discourage, rather than encourage adult victims from seeking help. Victims of human trafficking should be empowered by state laws, rather than scared to seek medical advice and care.

A bill I authored could help take away some of this fear by abolishing mandatory reporting for suspected adult victims and replacing it with a requirement that health care practitioners share information on the resources and services available to victims, such as a 24/7 hotline.  House Bill 1191 would maintain the mandatory reporting of suspected underage victims, while enacting a non-coercive approach both medical professionals and human trafficking advocates say is more effective for adults. This proposal will create an environment in which adult victims are not deterred from seeking medical attention. The intention is to expose them to all the support and programs available to help remove them from their dangerous situation.

Another bill I co-authored would create separate offenses for labor and sex trafficking under the current human trafficking statute in our state. By separating these specific criminal charges, House Bill 1270 would make it easier for law enforcement and prosecutors to crack down on specific offenders and trafficking networks.

Our current law needed clarification to equip law enforcement with the necessary tools to fight human trafficking in our state. The bill would require the Indiana Commission on Improving the Status of Children to examine whether a law enforcement officer has the authority to take custody of or detain a child if the officer believes the child is a human trafficking victim.

While none of these reforms will put an end to this horrific crime, they are major step in the right direction. Both bills can now be considered by the Senate. If you or someone you know could be a victim of human trafficking, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

I also encourage you to share your feedback by contacting my office at 317-232-9769 or email at h70@iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Karen Engleman (R-Georgetown) represents House District 70,

which includes portions of Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties. 

A high-resolution photo of Engleman can be downloaded by clicking here.