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Buyer Beware Act: Penalizing Patrons of Trafficking

As reported cases of human trafficking spiked 25% since the last reported year, patrons and advertisers of trafficked individuals continue avoiding penalties for their crimes, contributing to the $150 billion worldwide trafficking industry.

Some Pennsylvania legislators are attempting to right this wrong

Victims of sex trafficking, by some accounts, average as young as 12 years old and often come from destabilized or abusive backgrounds, making them vulnerable to the deliberate grooming and exploitation of traffickers. These are the individuals the “Buyer Beware Act” intends to protect. Introduced by Rep. Seth Grove and Sen. Krisitin Phillips-Hill (House Bill 12 and Senate Bill 60), it would send a strong signal to buyers and sellers of sex trafficking.

“This legislation is intended to shift the focus of state law from punishing the victims of trafficking to punishing those who traffic individuals and those who would buy sex from them.”

More specifically, the Buyer Beware Act builds upon Pennsylvania’s Anti-Human Trafficking Law (Act 105 of 2014) and Safe Harbor Law protecting trafficked children (Act 130 of 2018) by expanding the definition of individuals prosecuted for trafficking under state law. It would, in line with federal law, include:

  • Any individual who patronizes or advertises a trafficking victim.

  • A person who should have known or acted with reckless disregard to the trafficking victim.

The legislation further:

  • Doubles the maximum jail time an individual may serve for trafficking or patronizing a trafficked individual, upgrading the offense to a first degree felony with a 20-year maximum.

  • Increases fines on patrons to between $1,000-$30,000. If the victim is a minor, the fine is increased to a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $100,000.

  • Increases graduated fines for repeat offenders.

  • Changes the definition of a trafficked child from 16 to 18 years old.

The Senate version of the bill passed committee and is being considered when senators return to session in the fall.

In Pennsylvania, 275 trafficking cases were reported in just the first six months of 2018, and many more go unreported. Penalizing patrons of trafficking, instead of the victims, can have a lasting effect toward cutting the demand for trafficked individuals.

Supporting legislative action is one way to become involved, but if you’d like to join us in supporting victims of trafficking, you can learn more about our plan to provide safe, long-term, holistic care in our Restoration Home Project. If you would like to learn about other ways you can support local anti-human trafficking efforts, check out 5 Easy Ways to Support Greenlight Operation.

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