By Bill Parry
A bill, designed to inform victims of human trafficking that help is available to them, passed the state Assembly last week.
The legislation, introduced by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), would require the state Office of Children and Family Services to create and make available posters that would let people know help is available to trafficking victims and that just one phone call to a special 800 phone number could set them free from servitude.
“This bill would put vital information in places where victims can see it and give them a chance to be saved from this atrocious form of modern-day slavery,” Simotas said. “We need to do everything possible to end this horrifying subjugation of human beings.”
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to trap people into various forms of servitude. People are trafficked not only for sex, but also to perform housework, childcare, restaurant, farm and construction work and other labor, receiving no or little pay.
Immigrant victims of human trafficking often have their identification and travel documents taken away, can’t speak English and live in a constant state of fear. Domestically trafficked victims are often young runaways who end up in sexual servitude.
An attorney with the New York County Lawyers Association saw a sex-trafficking hotline poster in Maryland and sent a photo of it to State Supreme Court Justice Lee Richard Price. The judge brought the idea to Simotas.
A companion bill passed the state Senate earlier last week.
“I am extremely pleased with this legislation and the added protection it would give to victims of trafficking,” Price said. “I commend the Legislature for their progressive thinking and diligent work.”
Under provisions of the bill, these informational posters would be made available for placement in public places where they would likely be seen by trafficking victims. Those places include bus stations, highway rest stops and truck stops, airports, adult or sexually oriented businesses, hospitals and urgent care centers. The posters would give the name and toll-free number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
The 24/7 hotline, which operates with support from the U.S. Justice Department, was created for the express purpose of providing victims of human trafficking “with access to critical support and services” to get help and stay safe. Victims of human trafficking are eligible for protections and services under United States and New York State laws.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr