The General Assembly passed House Bill 198: Human Trafficking Commission Recommendations and is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Roy Cooper.

HB 198 is a win for the anti-human trafficking movement.

This bill expands the opportunity of human trafficking victims to seek nonviolent criminal expunctions for convictions that were directly caused by their trafficking and allows victims expanded opportunities to pursue civil relief by parties who profited from their exploitation.

 “It was with great pleasure that we saw this bill pass the General Assembly,” NC Stop Human Trafficking Community Outreach Coordinator Melinda Sampson said.

“When the governor signs House Bill 198, it will provide avenues of relief for survivors of human trafficking, expanding civil and criminal relief options. We cannot erase a survivor’s trauma and abuse. We cannot take the pain of exploitation from survivors. What we can do is provide them with relief. We can provide them with an opportunity to not be haunted by the exploitation they were forced to endure through a criminal record they had no control in creating, and that is exactly what HB 198 does.”

HB198 also supports a demand reduction model, criminalizing buyer conduct and expanding the definition of sexual servitude. HB 198 also prohibits the promotion or sale of sex tourism in the state.

“The General Assembly has taken it one step further and looked at demand reduction in regard to sex trafficking, implementing deterrents for sex buyers through criminal punishment and criminalizing the promotion or sale of sex tourism,” Sampson said.

“This is a bold move in the right direction, because sex trafficking would not exist if there were not sex buyers willing to feed the exploitative and criminal industry. We often look at traffickers and victims, but rarely at the consumers contributing to sex trafficking, with this bill the state of North Carolina is combatting human trafficking on multiple fronts.”