Human trafficking bills proposed amid awareness month

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of more than 30 bills were announced in Lansing Thursday to try to help fight the issue of human trafficking.

A group effort of sex trafficking survivors, lawmakers, law enforcement and prosecutors presented the bills to the legislature. The discussion comes during National Trafficking Awareness Month. 

“The whole system failed me,” Ruth Rondon, a trafficking survivor, said.

Rondon, who is now in her 60s, was sex trafficked from 15 to 33 years old.

“Unknown to my family, I was raped several times before I was 13 years old,” Rondon testified at the committee hearing. “Carrying so much shame from abuse is what made me easy prey for traffickers.”

She was also beaten at home and bullied at school. Her story is hard to hear and even more difficult for her share.

Rondon is sharing her story of trauma in hopes that the legislature will pass new laws that will protect and prevent young people from trafficking.

So far, the legislature is being very receptive. 

Mary Whiteford, a representative from Allegan County, says she is ready to start working on a bipartisan package of bills to address trafficking.

The proposed bills would increase the legal penalties against “Johns” to a felony, while lowering the penalties against victims to a misdemeanor. The bills also propose lawmakers to allow criminal records to be expunged, not only prostitution charges, but other charges related to trafficking to allow for a fresh start. 

Expanding training to spot victims of trafficking is also being discussed. Currently, health professionals are mandated to take the training. These efforts also include truckers and cosmetologists. 

Replacing the word “prostitution” with “commercial sexual activity” from criminal code is also being considered.  

Those are just a few of the proposals, but the idea is to treat traffickers as the victims they are and to get survivors the mental help and resources they need.

“Forgiving ourselves is key to setting victims free,” Rondon said.

Lawmakers are hoping to have some of the bills passed before summer.