INDIANAPOLIS – A new law could mean young prostitutes are treated more like victims than criminals in an effort to save some from exploitation.
House Bill 1216 – passed in April – provides a defense to the crime of prostitution if the victim was under 18 and is found to be a victim of human trafficking at the time the crime was committed.
The bill also provides new resources for families dealing with cases of missing or trafficked children.
Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington said the goal of this law is not to criminalize victims.
“The purpose of the law is we want to help give these children a good life, away from a life of being abused and mistreated and help them as a victim as opposed to getting arrested,” Harrington said said. “We’re going to treat [them] like a victim and provide [them] with a safe space to be.”
Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette, authored the legislation after Harrington brought the issues to his attention. Truitt said the bill dovetailed with a larger effort by the legislature to improve public safety. And he said he was happy to see this legislation pass both chambers with bipartisan support.
Harrington, who has been the Tippecanoe prosecutor for nine years, said he became more interested in the issue after “a few years ago several children were being trafficked, either into prostitution or involuntary labor. He said the current law did not allow the prosecutor’s office to classify those who were arrested as a victim.