AUGUSTA, MAINE – Governor Paul LePage signed Scarborough Rep. Amy Volk’s bill to help human trafficking victims into law late Thursday morning April 10, 2014.
Rep. Volk observes Gov. LePage signing her bill to help human trafficking victims.
The new law makes sex trafficking an affirmative defense to the charge of prostitution, preventing victims of trafficking from being branded with a criminal conviction.
The measure also fines perpetrators of sex trafficking $500-$1,000 in addition to existing penalties and allows victims to draw from the Victims’ Compensation Fund.
“This is a great day for the victims of sex trafficking,” said Rep. Volk. “It was such a happy moment to see Governor LePage sign this bill into law after months of work where, at times, I doubted whether this day would come. Sex trafficking victims are more protected now and traffickers and their clients face stiffer penalties for the roles they play in taking advantage of other human beings.”
The bill was the subject of a fierce political battle when it was introduced last fall, with Democrats opposing and eventually supporting admission of the bill into the 2014 legislative session. The House and Senate ultimately enacted the measure on April 2 with unanimous votes.
Many organizations supported Rep. Volk's bill, including the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Maine Chiefs of Police Association, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine Women's Lobby, National Association of Social Workers-Maine, Concerned Women for America of Maine, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and others.
“Throughout the process of crafting this bill, I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many great people who work on the front lines and see the damage done by human trafficking every day, and it’s taught me so much about this horrendous crime,” added Rep. Volk. “All too often, the Legislature is full of partisan conflict, so it was really moving to see everybody unite behind this common goal of helping Maine women.”
Governor LePage congratulated Rep. Volk and expressed support for the new law.
“Human trafficking is a horrific crime and I congratulate Rep. Volk for her tireless efforts to pass this legislation,” said Governor LePage. “It’s important we protect those who cannot protect themselves and if the defendant was herself a sex trafficking victim this bill seeks to address that. There is a massive underground trafficking industry and we must hold traffickers accountable, making prosecution and enforcement more effective, and provide greater protections to victims.”