INDIANAPOLIS — Lawmakers have filed a bill aimed at protecting victims of human trafficking in Indiana.
Currently, Indiana law requires victims who are 15 years old or older at the time of trial to testify in court.
House Bill 1081 would allow survivors 14 years old or younger at the time of their assault to submit a video statement for court procedures if they are younger than 18 at the time of the trial.
Co-author Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, told WRTV the change would remove an emotional hurdle so that more children are willing to testify against their perpetrators.
“If you are 14 years or younger when the situation occurs, you are able to submit a videotape to the court rather than having to face the trafficker in court,” Negele said. “It's trying to eliminate additional victimization. So, the idea is trying to really protect that victim."
The bill is assigned to the House Courts and Criminal Code committee.
No word yet on if the bill will get a hearing.
The bill would also strengthen criminal penalties by increasing sentencing for perpetrators whose victims are under the age of 18 and rule out victim consent or belief that a victim was at least 18 years old as a legal defense.
In 2019, 157 Indiana human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
This was an increase of 19% from 2018.
Of the 157 cases reported in 2019 in Indiana, 40 of those involved minors
Nearly 25 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, making it the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry, according to the U.S. State Department.
In Indiana, there were 140 human trafficking cases reported in 2020, up from 95 in 2017, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.