Mark Obenshain: A safer Virginia

obenshain2As the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session comes to an end, I want to applaud my colleagues for the historic passage today of SB 1188, my legislation which creates the first ever standalone sex trafficking statute in Virginia. The bill will now go to the Governor for review, and it is my hope that he will sign it.

SB 1188 is critical to protecting victims and giving law enforcement the necessary tools to combat the pervasive problem of sex trafficking. I especially want to thank Delegate Tim Hugo who carried the House version of this bill and Delegates Rob Bell and Todd Gilbert for their hard work on this legislation.

Children are being recruited into prostitution by gangs and traffickers in schools, neighborhoods, malls, and online. The fact that the average age at which a child enters into prostitution is thirteen should serve as a wake up call. Sex trafficking is a global calamity, but here in Virginia, we need to do everything within our power to end this terror and offer victims a chance at a new and better life.

It’s easy to think of sex trafficking as something that happens elsewhere, something that’s someone else’s responsibility—but it’s our responsibility to enhance our efforts to keep the most vulnerable among us safe. Human trafficking is the second fastest growing crime in the country, and it is not just a problem confined to the remote corners of the globe; it’s a problem here in the urban, suburban and rural parts of Virginia. With the passage of this legislation, we now have strong tools to combat this brutal crime.

SB 1188 clearly defines and establishes the offense of sex trafficking, which includes the trafficking of minors without requiring proof of force, intimidation or deception. The bill also provides enhanced penalties to help ensure offenders face penalties that reflect the seriousness of the crime. Additionally, the bill provides law enforcement and prosecutors with powerful new tools to continue the fight against sex trafficking in Virginia.

Again, I appreciate everyone who worked on this legislation and thank my colleagues for passing this important bill.

Mark Obenshain is a member of the Virginia State Senate.

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