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Portman, Brown Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Addiction-Driven Human Trafficking

Press Release

Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced their bipartisan legislation to crack down on addiction-driven human trafficking. The Protecting Rights of Those Exploited by Coercive Trafficking (PROTECT) Act specifically addresses the use of drugs to facilitate human trafficking and protects vulnerable victims of trafficking. Human traffickers often introduce or exploit drug addiction to control or force victims into prostitution or forced labor. This compounds the trauma experienced by human trafficking victims and undermines recovery efforts for individuals suffering from addiction.

The PROTECT Act will combat this by:

Amending existing human trafficking law to specify that the use of drugs or illegal substances to cause a person to engage in a commercial sex act or forced labor constitutes a form of coercion; and
Including a provision in the bill to protect trafficking victims from prosecution, recognizing that victims are often forced to commit crimes by virtue of their own victimization.
"Too often, drugs are used to coerce victims of human trafficking," said Senator Portman. "This bipartisan legislation would better equip law enforcement to bring human traffickers to justice."

"Traffickers will stop at nothing to exploit victims for their own personal gain," said Senator Brown. "The PROTECT Act will provide enhanced measures for law enforcement officers who are working every day to bring these heinous criminals to justice."

Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are also sponsoring the PROTECT Act.

NOTE: A number of law enforcement organizations and human trafficking victim advocacy groups have endorsed the PROTECT Act, including: Fraternal Order of Police, National Narcotic Officers' Associations' Coalition (NNOAC), National Sheriffs' Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers' Association, International Union of Police Associations, Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Covenant House, National District Attorneys Association, Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, The Switch, Truckers Against Trafficking, Shared Hope International, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CAT-W), Living In Freedom Together (LIFT), National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Child Welfare League of America, Love 146, My Life My Choice, Rights4Girls, Human Service Chamber of Franklin County.

Last year, Portman wrote the bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which was supported by Senator Brown. The bill was signed into law by President Trump in April 2018. This legislation clarified Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to ensure that websites like Backpage.com, which knowingly facilitate sex trafficking, can be held liable and brought to justice. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the leading anti-trafficking group in the country, said this about progress under SESTA: "Since the enactment of SESTA and the government's seizure of Backpage, there has been a major disruption in the online marketplace."