3 bills to protect human trafficking victims pass House committee

200 march in Capitol for Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Day

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Three bills to protect human trafficking victims passed a House committee in the state Capitol Thursday as nearly 200 people marched in Tallahassee for Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Day.

In 2016, Florida received 1,890 reports of human trafficking. Advocates said many more go unreported.

At the Capitol, one victim shared her story.

“Which led into just a long line of trauma and drug addiction. And then, at 24, I was trafficked for a second time," said victim and advocate Christa Hicks, of Fort Myers.

Inside, legislation allowing victims to sue those who profit from their enslavement cleared a House committee.

“I think it not only will allow victims to be compensated for their actual damages, but I think (it will) kind of suppress some of the activity among the traffickers if they know that everything they own is essentially going to be on the line," said Rep. Ross Spano, R-Tampa. 

Not only can traffickers be held responsible, but business owners that allow sex trafficking to take place on their property would be held accountable.

“Now (it will) allow the Attorney General to file that civil forfeiture action to take that property away from that person who, in willful blindness, knows exactly really what's going on," Spano said. 

Those who work directly with victims said this legislation would incentivize victims to come forward.

“Oftentimes victims of human trafficking do not self-identify, but this would be an extra initiative to understand that this is giving the power back to them," said Marina Anderson, DCF human trafficking coordinator. 

A second bill sets up a trust fund from assets seized from traffickers to help victims, while a third bill allows some court proceeding to be closed to keep victims anonymous

For the last six years, Florida has passed a major piece of legislation on human trafficking. The state is ranked among the top ten states working to tackle the issue.