Virginia Delegates Tim Hugo and Vivian Watts aided in passing House Bill 1898 which was created to protect both minors and adults who are exploited in the sex trafficking industry. Shared Hope International is also credited with bringing this to fruition by joining with other anti-trafficking organizations to urge the Virginia Legislature to improve the current state law.
Founder and President of Shared Hope International (and former Congresswoman), Linda Smith says, “At least 100,000 American children are exploited through prostitution in the United States every year. This bill brings Virginia's laws closer to the national standard of legislative protection for children from sex trafficking outlined in Shared Hope's Protected Innocence Initiative.”
HB 1898 has improved current law by making the following changes:
Abduction for Sexual Purposes: Adds the crimes of abducting "any person for the purpose of prostitution" and abducting "any minor for the purpose of manufacturing child pornography" to current abduction law. These crimes are Class 2 felonies punishable by 20 years to life imprisonment and a fine up to $100,000. In addition to the prison sentence, a suspended sentence of no less than 40 years is mandated. This stronger penalty will serve as a deterrent to those criminals who would traffic women and children for sex in Virginia.
Evidentiary Protections: Prevents a defendant in a prosecution for abducting a person for the purpose of prostitution from introducing reputation and opinion evidence concerning a victim's "unchaste behavior or prior sexual conduct" (commonly referred to as "rape shield law"). This will encourage victims to testify against their exploiter and help prosecutors win convictions.
Strengthens Laws Relating to Indentured Servitude: Makes it a Class 4 felony punishable by 2-10 years imprisonment and a fine up to $100,000 for any person to receive money or value for causing any person, including minors, to engage in prostitution, or the sexual performance in any obscene material or child pornography. This provides another way to prosecute the crime of sex trafficking when there may not be proof of force, deception or intimidation. A child victim of sex trafficking may believe she is "in love" with her trafficker and psychological coercion is difficult to prove.
Congrats to Shared Hope International and Virginia Delegates for their support and action on improving the fight against sex trafficking!
- Don Torrance