An agency request bill from state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to protect human trafficking victims from their traffickers passed the House of Representatives with unanimous, bipartisan support on Monday.
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1079, and Sen. Mike Padden, R—Spokane Valley, is the prime sponsor of its companion, Senate Bill 5029.
“I am committed to removing barriers to justice,” Ferguson said. “Human trafficking victims need our support, including laws that reflect the seriousness of the crimes they’ve endured.”
HB 1079 passed with a bipartisan 97-0 vote.
Protection orders for sexual assault or domestic violence are not available to protect many trafficking victims, who often face harassment and intimidation from their former traffickers.
Human trafficking and promoting prostitution are not sex offenses under the law, so victims of those crimes cannot seek a sexual assault protection order. Domestic violence protection orders apply only where the victim lives or has lived with the trafficker, and in many cases require a “dating relationship.”
HB 1079 creates a new human trafficking protection order to address this gap in the law. Under Ferguson’s proposal, a victim of human trafficking can obtain a protection order requiring that the defendant stay away from the victim’s home, school or business and refrain from contacting, intimidating or threatening him or her. Willful violations of the court order would be a gross misdemeanor.
“Victims of human trafficking deserve all the help we can give them in escaping that horrific industry and rebuilding their lives,” Orwall said. “Our legislation closes a gap in the protections available to these victims.”
“Organizations such as Shared Hope International frequently have ranked Washington among the states with the toughest laws against human trafficking, but there still is much more to do,” Padden said. “This bill will make it easier for human trafficking victims to obtain the legal protection they deserve.”