Yesterday, Tuesday, May 31st, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a landmark legislation on human trafficking. During the State of Virginia bill signing ceremony at Dulles Airport in Virginia, Governor McDonnell signed bills HB-2190 and HB-1893 proposed by Delegates Timothy Hugo, Vivian Watts and Adam Ebbin. The bills will go into effect immediately.
These laws expand the current kidnapping laws to include child trafficking, increased penalties for offenders and increased resources for victims.
"It's hard to believe, but there are victims of this horrible crime living right here in Virginia," said Delegate Ebbin. "Trafficking victims are often beaten, raped, threatened with their lives, and locked up, so it's important that when victims are rescued, we are able to get them the aid they need to start the recovery process."
Victims are often afraid to come forward and run to the police for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the lack of language skills. When they do, law enforcement and social services don't know if to treat them as criminals or victims. Another growing problem when combating child sex trafficking is due to the lack of training and resources facing police departments across the country.
The passage of this bill provides a blueprint to help law enforcement identify trafficked victims, assist victims to receive benefits and coordinate state agencies and non-profits in delivering health, housing, education, job training and legal services to trafficked victims.
Today's bill signing was held at Dulles Airport since many of the victims in the U.S. enter on airlines. It is estimated that 800,000 victims (children and adults) are trafficked across international borders and that 100,000-300,000 U.S.-born underage victims are forced into sexual slavery in the U.S. every year.
Airline Ambassadors International, a non-profit and the only independent charity in the airline industry working with this cause, has developed a training program to help identify traffickers and victims for airline, airport and hotel employees as a front-line defense against traffickers.