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IN bill would grant new protections to survivors of human trafficking

Survivors of human trafficking in Indiana are required to provide testimony in person during trials, but a new bill would allow young survivors to submit pre-recorded video statements. The proposal would apply to survivors who were 14 or younger at the time of their assault, as long as they’re still a minor during the trial.

Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, chair of the Indiana House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, said she wrote the bill after talking with a parent in her district.

“His daughter was victimized when she was 14 and then was forced to testify in court when she was 15,” McNamara recounted. “So hopefully this would be an opportunity for kids not to have to relive this.”

Per the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 140 reported cases of trafficking in Indiana in 2020, up from 98 in 2017. McNamara said while her bill is aimed at survivors of human trafficking, it also would cover young survivors of any violent crime.

McNamara’s bill includes other provisions which she pointed out will streamline the prosecution of traffickers and increase penalties for those who pay for sexual acts from minors. She added many of those measures were designed to target the organizations behind the crime.

“It’s not just one individual,” McNamara explained. “It’s often a very complex web of groups of people, multi-state groups, that serve as human-trafficking rings.”

The proposal also will require local agencies to report human trafficking investigations to the Indiana Attorney General’s office within thirty days. It will be before the Courts and Criminal Code Committee for consideration Wednesday.

Human trafficking can be reported to the National Human Trafficking hotline via the organization’s website or by phone: 1-888-373-7888.