The Iowa House has approved changes the Iowa Senate made to a bill that toughens penalities for human trafficking. The bill also would allow prosecutors to ask a court to declare teenagers caught up in prostitution rings to be classified as “children in need of assistance” rather than forcing prosecutors to charge the teens with prostitution. Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, said the aim is to go after the adults.
“And not re-victimize the minors who were thrown into human trafficking,” Dvorsky said during Senate debate of the bill in March.
The penalty for sex crimes against children would be harsher if the bill becomes law. Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, voted for the bill, but she expressed disappointment in the bill’s focus on penalties.
“Next year we can focus on helping the victims with ‘safe havens’ where they can go and heal from this terrible thing that’s happened to them,” Steckman said during House debate Wednesday.
If the governor signs this bill into law, those found guilty of human trafficking would be assessed a new $1,000 fine. The money would be deposited in a state fund that’s to be used to help victims of the underground sex trade industry.