Landmark Legislation to Protect Sexually Exploited Children and Human Trafficking Victims Now Law

On Dec. 13, by a vote of 50-0, the Pennsylvania Senate once again unanimously advanced legislation – that I was proud to sponsor alongside Sens. Maria Collett (D-12) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) – to guarantee sexually exploited children who are human trafficking victims always have full access to appropriate services and support (Senate Bills 44 and 45).

Tragically, under previous Pennsylvania law, any minor that is exploited for commercial sex must identify their third-party perpetrator to be considered a victim of human trafficking, unless their purchaser is charged as a trafficker.

Signed into law on Dec. 14 as Act No. 39 of 2023, my legislation removes third-party control from Titles 18 and 23 of Pennsylvania’s criminal code. Currently awaiting PA House consideration, Sen. Collett’s Senate Bill 45 would eliminate the third-party control requirement to access victim services under the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act (PA Act 197 of 2012).

No matter how a district attorney chooses to prosecute, sexually exploited children should never be subject to the emotional and physical trauma of identifying their human trafficking perpetrator to obtain the services they desperately need for healing and recovery.

Final enactment of this bipartisan, collaborative legislation will finally ensure any child who is preyed upon for commercial sex will be legitimately recognized as a victim of human trafficking under the law.

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