HARRISBURG, PA – October 17, 2018 – State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware)’s safe harbor bill, Senate Bill 554, was passed today by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a vote of 187-0.
After the vote Leach released the following statement:
“There is no such thing as a child prostitute. There are only survivors of child rape,” Leach said. “When children are involved in this activity it’s because they were threatened, beaten, or otherwise coerced – they were victims of human trafficking. In Pennsylvania, you cannot consent to sex with an adult unless you’re at least 16 years old. It’s not right to charge the victim of a crime with a crime they couldn’t even choose to commit.”
“I applaud Senator Stewart Greenleaf and appreciated working with him on this issue. In passing this third bill of our trilogy, we have turned Pennsylvania from one of the least progressive states combatting human trafficking into one of the most progressive,” Leach said. “Pennsylvania will finally provide these victims with safe harbor while continuing to pursue the human traffickers that committed the real crime.”
Senate Bill 554 makes a minor suspected of prostitution immune from prosecution, it protects the minor from related penalties and requires that authorities treat the minor as a sexually exploited child. The three measures provide for a protocol known as “safe harbor in human trafficking.”
The bill now awaits concurrence from the Senate, which is expected to happen later today. After it’s approved by the Senate it must be signed by the Governor to be enacted into law.
There are more than 100,000 children that are exploited through prostitution in the United States each year. These children are manipulated by adults, oftentimes with the use of illegal drugs. Charging these children with prostitution, drug possession, loitering and other offenses related to prostitution does nothing to prevent further exploitation and only makes the matter worse for the survivor.
Leach and Greenleaf introduced this legislation following Act 105 of 2014, which rewrote Pennsylvania’s human trafficking statute to better enable prosecutors to bring charges for human trafficking and increase penalties for traffickers. Leach has introduced Safe Harbor legislation three sessions in a row. Previous versions include SB 915 from the 2013-2014 Session and SB 851 from the 2015-2016 Session.
Senator Daylin Leach represents the 17th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Montgomery County and Delaware County. He is also the Democratic Chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For more information visit www.senatorleach.com/newsroom.