LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)–-According to the State Department, human trafficking impacts 24.9 million adults and children globally and in the United States.
The victims of sex trafficking are often stigmatized by society because of their forced criminal pasts. Michigan already has human trafficking bills in place to help victims rid their record of prostitution charges. However, State Representative Mary Whitefield recently introduced House Bill 4091 to help sex trafficking survivors rid their record of other criminal convictions they performed when trafficked, abused, or forced by an oppressor.
“It will allow an individual to go up before a judge and say ‘hey I was being exploited, trafficked is their any way we can have this expunged?'” Whitefield said, “the judge can look at their records and see what they’re doing say yes I’m taking this off and your record is free and you can go apply for a job.”
HB 4091 was originally introduced in 2020 to the Michigan House. However, discussion was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whitefield told 6 News she created the bill after she heard stories of her friends being survivors of sex trafficking.
“Many times while they’re being trafficked we go back to the term ‘brainwashed,'” Whitefield said, “And they felt like they walked into this life and was something that they chose not really understanding the ramifications of what is occurring to them.”
Whitefield worked directly with survivors and members of the FBI to develop this bill. She stated she hopes this will make the transition of going back into society easier for them.
The Michigan Attorney General’s Office is leading the fight against human trafficking abusers by prosecuting the state’s criminal cases under state law
.”My office has worked aggressively with law enforcement task forces to ferret out modern-day slavers and put an end to their trade.” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in statement on Michigan.gov, “Attorneys from the office also conduct trainings for law enforcement and prosecutors and works with community members and advocates to raise awareness of this despicable crime.”
“I have known girls who have been a part of robberies it wasn’t their choice they were being forced to do it,” said Shari Montgomery, Founder/CEO of The House of Promise. “It doesn’t make the crime right, but if they were forced into them let’s give them another chance.”
The House of Promise is a local non-profit organization which provides trafficking survivors shelter, food, and confidence. The nonprofit is also dedicated to raising awareness to human trafficking.
Montgomery said this new provision could provide hope to survivors having difficulty finding work, going to school, and operating in their daily life tasks.
“This is giving them the message that they’re not garbage, and they’re not a throwaway society,” Montgomery said, “and we’re saying we see you and we want to help you.”
If you are a victim of human trafficking or have any information regarding possible human trafficking, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.