Ohio knows all too well that human trafficking isn’t a problem from the distant past, or one found only in countries across the world — Ohioans are being bought and sold in our own backyards.
And the addiction crisis only makes this crime worse, giving traffickers another tool to use to exploit victims.
That’s why I am leading a bipartisan group of my colleagues, including Sen. Portman, to introduce the PROTECT Act, to fight the use of drugs in human trafficking, give law enforcement officers enhanced measures to bring criminals to justice, and protect vulnerable victims.
Traffickers often exploit drug addiction or expose victims to drugs for the first time to force victims into prostitution and other forced labor.
These crimes are heinous, and fanning the flames of a drug addiction only makes victims’ trauma worse — making it that much harder for them to recover.
Our legislation would provide enhanced measures for law enforcement officers who are working every day to bring these heinous criminals to justice. It would make it clear that that if you use drugs or illegal substances to force someone to engage in a commercial sex act or forced labor, that’s a form of coercion.
The bill would also provide new protection for victims.
Traffickers often coerce their victims into committing crimes – our legislation will protect those victims from prosecution, so that law enforcement can focus on the real criminals perpetrating these crimes, and victims can focus on their recovery.
This bill has support across the political spectrum, and we have the endorsement of both law enforcement organizations and trafficking victims advocacy groups.
Addiction has become another weapon for traffickers, and we need to give law enforcement the authority they need to bring these criminals to justice.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator representing Ohio.