Activists Join S.C. Officials To Combat Human Trafficking

CONTACT: Patricia Ravenhorst, (c) 864-449-1673, (o) 803-750-1200 ext. 188

Columbia, SC (January 24, 2012) – Dozens of activists descended on South Carolina’s capitol today to speak out for new state legislation against human trafficking, one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the United States. At a press conference highlighting today’s Lobby Day, State Representative Nelson Hardwick (R-106), the lead sponsor for a newly introduced anti-human trafficking bill (H. 3757), expressed his commitment to reducing trafficking in South Carolina.

“I am committed to making sure that our communities have the tools to fight human trafficking in South Carolina,” said Representative Hardwick. “All over the country, tens of thousands of people have been brutally exploited for the profit of others. Today’s efforts show that we can all come together to support these victims, hold traffickers accountable, and ultimately, end this crime.”

In addition, Attorney General Alan Wilson, State Senator Brad Hutto (D-40), Solicitor Duffie Stone, and victim service organizations from around South Carolina also joined the activists to express support for aggressive efforts to support victims of human trafficking and prosecute traffickers.

H. 3757 is a comprehensive bill that would criminalize sex trafficking, support trafficking victims, and raise awareness of the problem. The bill gives more tools to law enforcement to combat human trafficking, including asset forfeiture. The bill also creates a civil cause of action for victims of trafficking and establishes mandatory restitution for those who have been victimized.  Finally, H. 3757 creates a task force to fight human trafficking through the Office of the Attorney General.

“Human trafficking is a crime that often involves domestic violence, kidnapping, solicitation, and sexual assault,” said Attorney General Wilson.  “Law enforcement in this state is ready and willing to arrest and prosecute human trafficking offenders, but there currently is no law on the books for them to use.  We must do better in South Carolina, and that means immediately passing a law to allow authorities to crack down on this growing crime problem.”

Last August, Polaris Project ranked South Carolina as one of nine states in the country whose laws had failed to adequately address the growing crime of human trafficking. In 2011, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, which helps connect trafficking victims to services, received 163 calls related to trafficking in South Carolina, including 16 tips and 6 crisis calls.

“Over the last year and a half our agency has seen a dramatic increase in the number of human trafficking victims here in South Carolina,” said Tricia Ravenhorst, attorney with the South Carolina Victim Assistant Network. “Having a stronger state human trafficking law that supports widespread training of local law enforcement and supports collaborative efforts to combat this crime is long overdue.”

To report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or request information, call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, operated by Polaris Project, at: 1-888-373-7888.

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