Mass. Lawmakers Consider Legislation That Would Help Human Trafficking Victims

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation that would help victims of human trafficking if they are convicted of sex crimes they were forced to commit.

Here in Massachusetts, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports at least 40 victims just this year.

NBC Boston's Joy Lim Nakrin spoke to a survivor trafficked on Boston streets at the age of 16 who said "we didn't chose to get up one morning say 'I want to have sex with random people I don't know.'"

Yet, she explained how difficult it was to get out of "the life" as she calls it. She recalls trying to leave and being "beaten to the point where I had to be in the hospital for three weeks."

Yet, in her three years of being trafficked, she was ultimately convicted of prostitution. That made it challenging to gain acceptance to school, the military and desirable housing.

Attorney Alec Zadek helps human trafficking victims get prostitution convictions vacated by arguing they have Battered Woman Syndrome.

"It was really gruesome and terrible violence these women suffered and that was the only reason why they prostituted themselves," he said.

State Rep. Michael Day is sponsoring legislation to get prostitution convictions vacated for victims.

"The intent of the legislation is to address a growing population, sadly growing population of individuals emerging from the sex trade," he said.

More than two dozen other states already have so-called vacatur laws. Now, this legislation is being considered in conference committee at the Statehouse. If approved, it heads to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk and could become law. Victims would have to provide evidence they were trafficked in order to benefit from the proposed law.

Click here to learn more about a non-profit that aims to help sexual exploitation survivors.

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