HARRISBURG – Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington) announced today that her legislation to help combat human trafficking in Pennsylvania has successfully passed the House.
House Bill 2174
would prohibit defendants from using a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization and allegations of past sexual victimization as “evidence” in any prosecution related to human trafficking.
Mihalek’s bill is part of a package of bills designed to guarantee the well-being of victims, protect their privacy and make it safer for them to testify against their abusers. Legislation in the package would increase penalties for anyone knowingly patronizing a victim and anyone connected to trafficking victims. Other bills would assist victims and aim to increase resources and protections.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or purchase of persons for the sole purpose of exploitation. Since 2007, more than 1,200 human trafficking cases have been reported in the Commonwealth. In addition, Pennsylvania is ranked 10th on Insider Monkey’s list of top human trafficking states. The International Labour Organization estimates human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, of which $99 billion is generated by sexual exploitation.
“Sometimes used for labor, oftentimes used for sex —women and children are especially vulnerable to this predatory behavior, which is why I felt it was important to include an additional expansion of the rape shield law in this package of bills,” said Mihalek. “For human trafficking victims who have been repeatedly assaulted and treated as if they have no voice, we need to empower our judicial system with the tools necessary to prosecute these predators and give those victims the voice they deserve.”
Earlier this session, the governor signed into law Mihalek’s House Bill 504, which expands the rape shield law to cover prior sexual victimizations. This bill takes that measure one step further by ensuring that victims of human trafficking have the same protections contained in Pennsylvania’s rape shield law.
“It is my sincere hope that this is only the beginning for the measures this chamber will take up to combat this epidemic,” continued Mihalek. “Predators of human trafficking will stop at nothing to get what they want. Today we put those predators on notice that the Pennsylvania Legislature will stop at nothing to stop them dead in their tracks.”
House Bill 2174 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Representative Natalie Mihalek
40th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Brooke Haskell