Senate adopts Padden’s comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation

Brianna was 17, residing in a small Washington town near Interstate 5 and working at the local café when she met the man who acted like a friend but turned out to be a pimp. It’s men like that, participants in a commercial sex industry that views girls as nothing more than products to be bought and sold, who are among the targets of the comprehensive anti-trafficking bill introduced by Sen. Mike Padden and adopted unanimously today by the state Senate.padden_pq

“Young girls like Brianna are being picked out, stalked, manipulated, threatened, tortured, raped, and beaten every day by traffickers in our state,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “The sex-trafficking industry is continuing to evolve, and to fight it, those in law enforcement and our justice system need more tools. That’s the point of this measure.

“I realize that we will almost certainly be back next year with new anti-trafficking legislation,” added Padden, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which had endorsed Senate Bill 5669 last month. “In the meantime this bill to me represents one of the most important actions we can take during this legislative session for our children and families.”

During a public hearing for SB 5669 Brianna told Padden’s committee how she had become a victim of traffickers more than three years ago. Thanks to the combination of a true friend, an alert law-enforcement officer and an intervention by Shared Hope International, the Vancouver-based anti-trafficking organization founded by former Congresswoman Linda Smith, Brianna’s story had a positive ending, and she is now a nursing student.

When Smith testified in support of Padden’s bill at the same committee hearing she said it had “patched the holes” in Washington’s already strong anti-trafficking laws and would help make the state’s approach more of a model for the nation by treating sex trafficking as the separate crime it is.

The changes Padden’s bill would make to state anti-trafficking laws include expanding the definition of “communication with a minor for immoral purposes” to cover the purchase or sale of commercial sex acts and sex trafficking; adding to the definition of first- and second-degree trafficking; and making the penalties for those who patronize child prostitutes stronger.

SB 5669 also would add trafficking and commercial sexual abuse of a child to the list of sex offenses that require sex-offender registration and the list of crimes that can trigger charges under the state’s criminal profiteering law.

Padden noted how the Legislature has moved into its second decade of battling human trafficking through changes to state law and how that fight continues to unite lawmakers regardless of their views on other issues.

“While the priorities of our Majority Coalition Caucus are jobs, education and a sustainable budget, all of our members – just like our colleagues across the aisle – have daughters or granddaughters or nieces or family friends who are young girls and deserve whatever protection we can give them through the law from the scourge of sex trafficking,” Padden said. “From that standpoint we should view today’s vote as another victory.”