Indiana lawmakers advance bill to clarify human trafficking law

The Indiana House of Representatives meets. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Officials say human trafficking is happening in every state in the nation including Indiana.

On Tuesday, Indiana lawmakers signaled their strong support for victims as a bill aimed at helping those victims sailed forward.

Some people call human trafficking modern-day slavery.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline said it got more than 160 phone calls in Indiana last year. It’s so much of an problem, Indiana’s attorney general announced in January that he assigned more attorneys and investigators to his human trafficking investigations unit.

Today, supporters of the legislation said it’s meant to make it easier for victims to come forward.

Fifty: That’s how many cases the National Human Trafficking Hotline said were reported last year in Indiana. State Rep. Karen Engleman, a Republican from Georgetown, said, “It’s in all 92 counties. It’s a lot bigger problem than I ever could’ve thought.”

That’s why Engleman introduced a bill that would repeal the requirement that health care workers report suspected adult human trafficking victims to police. Engleman said the requirement can stop adult trafficking victims from getting treatment because they’re afraid of being turned in to police.

Kate Kimmer with the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault said Tuesday, “If that person got wind that they shared about their situation or any information about their trafficker, that could result in something even as serious as death, depending on the type of trafficking we’re talking about.”

The bill, which passed a committee Tuesday by a vote of 7-0, would instead require health professionals to offer suspected victims resources to get help.

Engleman said, “The Human Trafficking Hotline, they can give people information about places they can go, people that can help them.”

The hotline is (888) 373- 7888.

Kimmer, with the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault said this bill’s language actually clarifies a 2017 law that says all suspected victims must be reported. She said this would make it so only minors would have to be reported.

“So, now we’re here correcting that,” she said.

Supporters said the bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House in late January, sends a strong message to human trafficking victims.

“We hear you. We see you. We respect you, and we’re here when you’re ready,” Kimmer said.

The bill will continue to the Senate.