Rozzi pushes to protect victims of human trafficking

Representative joins the Pennsylvania Psychological Association at Monday news conference

HARRISBURG, May 8 – Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, joined the Pennsylvania Psychological Association Monday in pushing for protection for the victims of human trafficking, particularly children.

At the news conference, Rozzi discussed his Safe Harbor in Human Trafficking legislation (H.B. 525), which would make the child victims of human trafficking immune from criminal prosecution.

“Human trafficking is nothing short of modern day slavery,” Rozzi said. “Children are especially vulnerable as they never had the chance to develop skills to identify, avoid and resist adults who pose as friends.”

Children who are the victims of human trafficking are exploited through prostitution and are frequently provided with drugs by adults who manipulate them and control them, psychologically and physically. In many cases, the children end up charged with related criminal offenses.

“We must stop treating these children, who find themselves in the most deplorable of situations, as criminals. They are victims,” Rozzi said, adding that sexually exploited children need to be identified and brought to a safe setting – not jail. “They deserve immunity, not re-victimization. We need to provide them services that will help rehabilitate, educate and get them on the path to being a productive member of society.”

Rozzi’s bill would have the Department of Human Services work with other agencies to develop a statewide protocol to connect victimized children with services they need, such as housing, education, life-skills training and counseling.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Rozzi also expressed support for S.B. 554, a similar bill that passed the Senate and is with the House Judiciary Committee as well.

“While we debate policy, budgets and questions of law, children continue to suffer,” Rozzi said. “We must right these wrongs now, and go after the real criminals, the exploiters of our kids.”

The Pennsylvania Psychological Association has included human trafficking in its 2017 advocacy theme of overcoming interpersonal violence. Among other work, the association is looking within its membership for psychologists who can provide immediate mental health services to human trafficking victims.