In what some would consider a bold move, Governor Jay Inslee passed a bill on April 25 that will allow victims of sex trafficking to clear a prostitution conviction even if they’ve committed other crimes because of being trafficked.
At the signing ceremony at the state capital, Inslee said, “it is important in our continued fight against human trafficking because it removes a significant barrier to leaving prostitution.”
With the present law, it does not allow victims to vacate prostitution convictions if other crimes exist on their record. This new measure states that any motion filed to vacate a prostitution conviction must prove “by a preponderance of evidence” that the applicant’s conviction, along with any other crimes committed, was a result of being a, “victim of trafficking, promoting prostitution in the first degree or promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor.”
Senator Rebecca Saldana of Seattle — the bill’s sponsor — had mentioned how she hopes the legislation will simplify the process. This way, survivors can file suit and are able to access housing, education and job opportunities without being held back by a prostitution conviction and the stigmatism that comes with it.
“They made it through and overcame such difficult hurdles only to be retriggered and to find doors close on them … The hurdles were so high that not a single person had been able to access what was supposedly their right,” said Sen. Saldana.
Because trafficking is such a hidden crime, it’s difficult to say how many people would benefit from the legislation passing the bill, but it’s certainly a step towards the right direction. This will help people move on and not let their trafficking situation hold them back from getting a decent life.