Human trafficking bill should receive support

Senate Bill 75, the one being co-sponsored by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, of Exton and his colleague, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, of Willow Grove, will take a big step against human trafficking if it is eventually passed by both houses of the state legislature.

As Sen. Dinniman described it at a workshop for nurses in Jennersville Hospital last Saturday, human trafficking is the modern equivalent of slavery.

Millions are being kept worldwide to provide sex and labor against their will, and since it is such a profitable practice, it persists.

The bill they sponsored provides for prosecution for threatening, physically restraining, kidnapping or extorting the victim. It also charges a person with a second degree felony for having sex with someone he or she knows is a victim of human trafficking. And finally, it forbids destroying or taking another persons identity documents.

In addition to the description of the bill, some interesting and compelling information came out of the workshop.

The first question that was raised and answered was, Why nurses?

Why bring them out on a Saturday morning to learn about this?

The answer is that nurses are probably the most frequent contacts enslaved people have.

Victims of human trafficking are often physically assaulted, and many of them suffer head wounds.

If nurses are trained to identify the signs, they are in a good position to report them to authorities.

The second piece of information shared by the speakers was that many enter willingly at first.

People dont start out in childhood aspiring to be prostitutes and work for a pimp. But adolescents sometimes innocently run away from home and are initially comforted by people they meet on the street who promise them room, money and love.

Soon, however, these people who first appeared as rescuers turn into brutal controllers who will not let them escape.

It is tempting to believe that in bucolic Chester County that human trafficking is far away in another county -- or at least in the ghetto of a far away city.

But the truth is, the nurses were told, that it exists right here in the wealthiest and healthiest county in the state.

Many people are held against their will working in agriculture or prostitution.

In the case of some whose citizenship is undocumented, they are hesitate to admit they are being enslaved for fear of being jailed or deported.

Crime Victims of Chester County Special Services Manager Katie Holton said we should be aware that this county has two assistant district attorneys and two detectives dedicated to fighting child abuse. Furthermore, she said, law enforcement agencies are more interested in catching the human traffickers than arresting illegals.

Finally, a more subtle message came out of the workshop on human trafficking -- a message that is probably hard to fight with any kind of legislation.

That is the idea or attitude that people (women, in particular) are objects to be used for sexual or labor purposes -- that they have no value beyond that and can be appropriately abused.

This attitude is rampant in some music and pornography and is one likely seed that, when planted in a receptive mind, can produce a human trafficker.

We wish Sen. Dinniman well and hope that his bill gets passed. But we also hope that the nurses who heard that message continue to reacted swiftly and bravely when they see signs of abuse.

We also hope that adults who would rather not confront the tawdry music or ugly porn to stand up against it and show their children its not OK. Its a gateway into a harmful lifestyle.

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