Charleston, WV - On Monday, May 6, 2013, at 1:30 pm in the Governor’s Reception Room, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will sign House Bill 2814, which expands protections provided to victims of human trafficking.
“Signing this bill into law will provide three new forms of assistance to victims,” said Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, lead sponsor. “Victims will be eligible for compensation under the crime victims compensation act, they can seek damages from traffickers and they may seek to have their criminal records expunged if they were charged with an offense that was a result of being a victim of trafficking, “ she said.
In 2012, West Virginia was ranked “most improved” by the Polaris Project for changes to our criminal law, including the addition of a new human trafficking felony, with a sentence of three to fifteen years and a possible fine of up to $200,000. Named after the North Star "Polaris" that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, the Polaris Project annually tracks laws in the states on human trafficking and works towards ending human trafficking world-wide.
“With these additional improvements,” said Sue Julian, Team Coordinator at the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, West Virginia will move out of the basement and into the mainstream of states that treat these crimes seriously and treat victims with the sensitivity and protection they deserve.”
“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery,” said James Dold, Senior Policy Counsel at the Polaris Project, “whether it involves child soldiers in Uganda, runaway girls in the U.S. who are put into prostitution at truck stops, or the sale of children to work in factories or as domestic workers.” Dold said that there have been over 100 calls to the National Trafficking hotline from West Virginia, over 20 percent of which have been crisis calls or tips from victims of service providers of victims.
“We believe that these crimes are under-reported,” said Fleischauer, “in part because it is so hard to imagine this kind of behavior happening in West Virginia or anywhere else.”
“It is important that we spread the word about these new laws to give hope to victims, most of whom are underage, and some tools to turn their lives around, “ she said.
To report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or request information, call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at: 1-888-373-7888, or send a text to BeFree (233733).