Negele, a member of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, co-authored a bill to allow young victims to provide recorded video statements instead of physically testifying in a courtroom where they are forced to relive past trauma. Negele said this change would not only help protect young victims, but also remove an emotional hurdle so that more children are willing to testify against their perpetrators.
“Allowing young survivors to submit a video rather than physically testifying in court is a commonsense approach to protect them, and could result in others coming forward to put traffickers behind bars,” Negele said. “Facing those who caused you harm, especially as a child, is scary and traumatizing. Victims must be able to tell their story and heal while feeling safe.”
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.
Currently, Indiana law requires Hoosiers 15 years old or older at the time of a trial to testify in court. Negele said this proposal 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.
The legislation would also increase 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.
Local organizations and agencies would also begin reporting human trafficking cases to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office no more than 30 days after an investigation begins.
In addition, the bill would close a legal loophole that allows individuals who pay a victim directly for sex acts to receive a lighter sentence. Currently, individuals who offer to or pay for sex acts can only be prosecuted with a Level 5 felony if they pay the trafficker directly. According to law enforcement, it is difficult to prosecute suspects as the majority of transactions occur between the perpetrator and the victim.
House Bill 1081 is assigned to the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee. Visit iga.in.gov to learn more.
If someone is suspected to be a victim of human trafficking, it should be reported immediately to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. For more information, visit humantraffickinghotline.org.