The state Legislature established an important protection for victims of human trafficking.
With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House of Representatives passed an agency request bill on Tuesday from Attorney General Bob Ferguson establishing a specific human trafficking criminal no-contact order, which courts and law enforcement will use to safeguard victims from their traffickers, according to a state Office of Attorney General media release.
Substitute House Bill 1079, prime-sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, passed the House Tuesday with a 98-0 vote. It passed the Senate with a 48-0 vote on April 5.
“Survivors of human trafficking are often harassed and threatened by their former traffickers after they come forward to law enforcement,” Ferguson said. “This legislation provides an important legal tool to safeguard these survivors.”
Because Washington state law does not characterize human trafficking and promoting prostitution as sex offenses, the only criminal no-contact order currently available to the court to protect victims of these crimes is a domestic violence no-contact order. This protection order is limited applying only when the victim lives or has lived with the trafficker.
Even when trafficking victims meet the requirements, the term “domestic violence” mischaracterizes the relationship between traffickers and their victims. Traffickers establish a relationship with the victim for the purpose of exploitation, not a dating relationship. They use manipulation and grooming tactics to gain the trust of the victims in order to exploit them for financial gain.
Consequently, before Ferguson’s legislation passed, existing protection orders were insufficient to protect most trafficking victims. This is especially problematic because trafficking is a major enterprise for gangs, making many traffickers extremely violent and intimidating.
Ferguson’s legislation addresses this gap in the law. Once Ferguson’s proposal goes into effect, a court can prohibit a trafficker from contact of any kind with a victim, and forbid the trafficker from being within a set distance of specific locations. A violation of a human trafficking no-contact order is a gross misdemeanor, except a violation can be elevated to a felony when tied to an assault or for a repeat violation.
This new human trafficking no-contact order will be available to help protect both victims of sex and labor trafficking.
“Tragically, the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, who is generally a teenager, is actually one of a predator taking advantage of an underage youth. This bill creates protections and helps law enforcement assist these young victims,” Orwall said. “I am relieved that we’re sending this bill to the governor’s desk and I am grateful to all the people who worked hard to make that happen.”
HB 1079 now moves to the Gov. Jay Inslee for signature. If signed by Inslee, the legislation will take effect on July 22.