(Madison) - Experts say our state is a hub for sex trafficking, but two bills supported by State Senator Alberta Darling aims to change that reputation. The bipartisan bills will help protect victims of sex trafficking and get them off the streets. Both bills were approved in Senate committees on Wednesday.
Senator Darling authored Senate Bill 49, known as the Safe Harbor law, to make sure trafficked children won't be charged for crimes they were forced to commit. Under current law, an individual who is under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to sexual relations. Despite that, minors who have been forced into having sexual relations because of trafficking can still be prosecuted for prostitution. Senator Darling says her bill will encourage children to come forward to law enforcement.
"The people who force children into sex trafficking will no longer be able to use the threat of prosecution for prostitution as a way to keep them in a cycle of abuse," Darling said, "This simple change to the law is vital to ensuring that children who have been sex trafficked are recognized as victims, not criminals."
Senate Bill 25 will assist truck drivers in identifying sex trafficking. All 72 counties in Wisconsin have reported incidents of human trafficking. Senator Darling is a coauthor of a bill authored by State Senator LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee that will help train truck drivers to recognize the signs of human trafficking. Senator Darling says the education will give police more eyes and ears throughout Wisconsin.
"Sex trafficking isn't a rural or an urban problem, it's a statewide issue," Darling said, "Truckers often find themselves on the front lines of where trafficking happens. This bill will help them recognize these crimes and contact law enforcement so it can be stopped."
Both bills are now available for a vote in the full State Senate.
Senator Darling represents portions of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties.