Putting a Stop to Human Trafficking

Human trafficking can happen to anyone, in any form, at any place.

Seattle is a hotbed for human trafficking. Rani Hong, a U.N. gift adviser and former victim herself, calls Seattle the third worst spot for it. The data is actually pretty fuzzy on actual rankings due to the secrecy of the crimes and general quietness and perhaps ignorance of victims, but Washington State’s number of entry points — I-5, a border with Canada, several ports, an international airport and large rural areas — makes Seattle a natural intersection for the crime.

It’s why Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) has been one of the most adamant and outspoken legislators on the subject. So far, Kohl-Welles has introduced 10 bills shaping a much-needed policy on trafficking. Other legislators, working in conjunction with Kohl-Welles, have introduced many more.

Referring to the 2013 Legislative Session, Kohl-Welles said, “What I hope to get out of this session is to make progress.” She is trying to push through four more bills and a resolution to pressure Congress to work on the subject. SB 5223 revises the definition of “abuse or neglect” by including victimizing children by involving them in trafficking. SB 5308 establishes the commercially sexually exploited children statewide coordinating committee to address the issue of children who are commercially sexually exploited. SB 5488 requires an additional fee of five thousand dollars per offense to be assessed on a person convicted of commercial sexual abuse of a minor, promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor, or promoting travel for commercial sexual abuse of a minor, when the court finds that an internet advertisement in which the victim of the crime was described or depicted was instrumental in facilitating the commission of the crime. SJM 8003 requests Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act. An Unnamed Bill incorporates education on human trafficking awareness into training for teachers and other school personnel.

SB 5488 is a reincarnation of a bill introduced last year, which was struck down by a Federal judge in December. The bill is targeted at online prostitution commercialization, and more specifically at websites like Backpage.com. Between 2010 and 2012, the Seattle Police Department recovered 22 children exploited for sex — all were linked directly to Backpage.com. The 2012 bill was struck down as a result of the Communications Decency Act, which provides near complete immunity to an Internet service provider for any liability they might have for any advertisements on their website. The Act was created in 1996, nearly 17 years ago, and hardly addresses the issues the Internet presents today.

Learn more at Zachariah Bryan’s Ballard News-Tribune article: Putting a stop to human trafficking.

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