A group of bi-partisan lawmakers have proposed legislation meant to help protect Missouri human trafficking survivors. Secretary of State Jason Kander joined those legislators and members of law enforcement to announce the bill that would add those survivors to Missouri’s “Safe at Home” program.
The “Safe At Home” program allows survivors of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and stalking, to hide their addresses in an effort to keep their assailants from finding them. The program provides survivors with a new, substitute mailing address. Senate Bill 211 and House Bill 368 would extend the program’s protections to human trafficking survivors.
Kander said human trafficking is becoming a growing problem in Missouri and the Department of Justice recently ranked St. Louis one of the top twenty human trafficking jurisdictions in the country.
He hopes the broad legislative support will help pass the law quickly.
“Getting this legislation to Governor Nixon’s desk as soon as possible is important because people’s lives are at stake,” said Kander. “We know that those who escape from trafficking are often afraid their traffickers will come after them.”
Sex trafficking survivor Katie Rhoades says for her, leaving was the scariest part, and safety after leaving is the biggest concern for many survivors.
“My pimp had my social security number, driver’s license, access to my birth certificate,” said Rhoades. “So, I had a pretty real fear, that, no matter where I went, he was going to be able to find me.”
Rhoades’s sex trafficking experience began at age 18 but she escaped in 2002. She says a program like “Safe At Home” would have helped her and other survivors.
“Safe At Home” has helped more than 2500 Missourians. Kander says the goal is to prevent participants’ assailants from finding out their location through any sort of public document.
Senator Gina Walsh (D-St. Louis County) is one of the sponsors of the proposal.
“We must always remember that when we speak about these issues, we always say she,” said Walsh. “Women are not the only victims of these devastating crimes.”
North Carolina, Washington, Oregon, and Maryland have already passed legislation that includes human trafficking survivors in their address confidentiality programs.