LANSING—Legislation sponsored by Sens. Judy Emmons and Mark C. Jansen to support victims of human trafficking and punish offenders was approved on Thursday by the Michigan Senate.
Emmons’ bill, Senate Bill 584, would eliminate the statute of limitations for any human trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses. The bill is named the Theresa Flores Act in honor of Theresa Flores, a Michigan native and the author of The Slave Across the Street, her personal story about how she overcame human trafficking.
“The Michigan Senate is taking a leading role in fighting human trafficking — a crime that devastates the lives of thousands of women and children in our state every year,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “Theresa’s compelling story about being trafficked in Michigan as a young woman is alarming and one of the reasons that I have dedicated myself to doing everything I can to end this modern-day slavery.”
Flores joined Emmons in announcing the bill as part of a 19-bill, bipartisan package addressing human trafficking in Michigan, including increasing penalties, training and victim support.
“Human trafficking is the second-leading crime in Michigan, and I know this because I was trafficked here over 30 years ago,” said Flores at the announcement. “Thank you to strong leaders like Senator Emmons, who say ‘we refuse to let this happen in our state.’”
The Senate also adopted a resolution sponsored by Emmons to designate Jan. 11, 2014 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Michigan.
“As the point person in the Senate on human trafficking, I know that while we are approving initiatives for new laws and victim support, the battle against this crime all starts with public awareness,” Emmons said. “Human Trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing criminal industry and it is a problem that requires a comprehensive solution. We need more legal tools, but we also need everyone — from first responders to our neighbors — to understand the problem, how to recognize it and what they can do to stop it.”
Under Jansen’s measure, SB 588, a human trafficking victim who is being prosecuted for prostitution would be allowed to introduce evidence of their experience as an affirmative defense, if the crime was committed as a result of having been trafficked.
“As a father, it sickens me to think that thousands of girls under the age of 18 are sold into the world of sex trafficking every year in Michigan and that 80 percent of human trafficking victims are sexually exploited,” said Jansen, R-Gaines Township. “My bill recognizes that many times victims are arrested for crimes that were committed as a direct result of human trafficking. Allowing an affirmative defense is about being compassionate for victims, stopping the practice of punishing them for their ordeal and helping them begin the process of overcoming their terrible experience.”
A third measure approved by the Senate, SB 591, sponsored by Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, would give victims an opportunity for a hearing where a judge could clear convictions from their record if the offenses were committed as a result of being trafficked.
SBs 584, 588 and 591 have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Editor’s Note: Video comments by Emmons are available on the senator’s website at: www.SenatorJudyEmmons.com. Click on “Video” under the Media Center tab.