Diamond bill to help victims of sex trafficking moves forward
AUGUSTA — Legislation submitted by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, to help young victims of sex trafficking, received committee approval on Wednesday. LD 548, “An Act To Prohibit a Person under 18 Years of Age from Being Charged with the Crime of Engaging in Prostitution,” was voted ought to pass by the Legislatures’ Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
“The nature of human trafficking makes it very difficult for young victims to get free from its grip,” said Sen. Diamond. “Unfortunately, the current law also keeps young victims trapped in the cycle of human trafficking: If they come forward to the police, they could be charged with prostitution and face criminal penalties.”
A 2015 report from Hornby Zeller Associates for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimated, conservatively, that between 200 and 300 people in Maine are victims of sex trafficking annually. According to the report, victims of sex trafficking in Maine are most often females as young as 14 years old and come from a range of urban and rural backgrounds.
“This bill provides a safe harbor for young women, girls and boys, who are victims of sex trafficking, and I believe it can help more of them escape the world of sex trafficking,” said Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, who has sponsored similar legislation. “It is the very least we can do, instead of taking them from one form of incarceration to another.”
The bill now goes before the full Maine Senate and House for votes.