CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Monongalia County delegate says West Virginia is taking the next step toward battling human trafficking in a new state law.
Del. Barbara Fleischauer was at the state capitol Monday afternoon for the ceremonial signing of a bill that will provide compensation for victims of human trafficking in West Virginia.
Fleischauer said the law provides three new forms of assistance to victims: compensation from the state’s crime victim’s fund, an opportunity to seek damages against traffickers, and a chance to have their criminal records cleared if it happened while they were a victim of trafficking.
Del. Fleischauer called the new law a good follow-up to 2012 legislation that made human trafficking a felony in West Virginia. The Polaris Project, which tracks trafficking laws in various states, ranked West Virginia most improved last year.
Fleischauer said cases of trafficking in West Virginia are underreported.
“We have information that it’s not uncommon at truck stops,” she said. “We’ve had reports of people at nail salons that maybe their documentation is being withheld or maybe they are being brought into the country under false pretenses.”
The law had a tough time in the legislature. There was debate between the House and Senate, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin initially vetoed it because of a technical problem. Lawmakers cleaned up the language and the governor signed the bill.
Fleischauer said she hopes the law will heighten public awareness. She urged those with questions to call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888, or send a text to BeFree (233733).