STATEHOUSE (Feb. 20, 2018) — State Rep. Karen Engleman’s (R-Georgetown) legislation to remove a common barrier for human trafficking victims seeking medical care could soon become law.
Under current state law, health practitioners are required to report all suspected human trafficking patients, regardless of age, to social services and local law enforcement. When turned in to authorities, victims 18 years of age or older can be tried for prostitution and possibly face retribution from their trafficker.
According to Engleman, the proposed legislation would remove the requirement to report suspected adult human trafficking victims and would encourage and require licensed providers to offer information about community resources and services, such as a 24/7 hotline. Advocates and medical professionals testified that adult victims are more likely to consider and seek assistance through non-coercive consultations.
“The current law discourages sex trafficking victims from seeking health care out of fear of being arrested or facing retribution from their abusers,” Engleman said. “Under this proposed legislation, suspected adult victims would be provided information on resources and services without facing criminal consequences, such as being reported to authorities. This bill would help give some control back to the victims and encourage them to seek help.”
Engleman said numerous health care providers indicated the current statute requiring practitioners to report all suspected victims has been difficult to enforce. Most health practitioners have not obtained the training needed to spot signs of human trafficking, which causes them to over report suspected cases out of fear of losing their license.
The bill would not affect state laws concerning patients age 17 years or younger. Healthcare providers would still be required to contact the Department of Child Services or local law enforcement when they encounter underage patients who they think could be victims of human trafficking.
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.