In response to a growing human trafficking crisis, lawmakers have introduced more than 30 bills in Lansing to help combat the issue.
The bills were presented to the Legislature by sex trafficking survivors, lawmakers, law enforcement officials and state prosecutors earlier this month. This push comes amid National Trafficking Awareness Month.
Many of the victims shared their testimonies with lawmakers, Wood TV reports.
“The whole system failed me,” Ruth Rondon, a trafficking survivor, told lawmakers, as reported by Wood TV.
Now 60, Rondon testified that she was sex trafficked from when she 15 until 33.
Wood TV reports Rondon also shared stories about her experiences before she was trafficked, including being sexually assaulted and raped multiple times as a young teen. She also said that her past experiences made her an easy target for the sex traffickers.
She said her shame due to the sexual attacks made her uneasy toward people and the traffickers used her uneasiness when kidnapping her.
“Unknown to my family, I was raped several times before I was 13 years old,” Rondon recounted at the hearing, as reported by Wood TV. “Carrying so much shame from abuse is what made me easy prey for traffickers.”
Wood TV reports that some of the proposed bills would increase legal penalties against Johns to a felony, allowing prostitution and other charges related to trafficking to be expunged, expanding training to spot trafficking victims and substituting "prostitution" with "commercial sexual activity" in the criminal code.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, stating in the proclamation that the state "recognizes human trafficking as a serious threat to the public health and safety of its residents, particularly for the most vulnerable" and that "ending human trafficking requires an intricate, multi-faceted, statewide solution that includes health care providers, social workers, child advocacy groups, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, legislators and the judiciary system."