View from the Assembly: Stronger penalties needed for human trafficking

By State Assemblyman Will Barclay

There are a number of measures I sponsor that would expand women’s rights and protections, as well as serve to better protect children. 

I wanted to highlight a few this week that would help the punishment fit the crime and also, make it easier for women and children to access services when in need.

Increase penalties for human trafficking. Human trafficking exploits vulnerable individuals. Victims of sex and labor trafficking are made to act against their will and, in many cases, are forced or coerced into committing crimes. 

While New York has one of the most comprehensive anti-human trafficking laws in the country, we still need to strengthen penalties for human trafficking, and better protect minors coerced into prostitution. 

A bill I support (A8808) would not only increase penalties, but would create an affirmative defense in prostitution crimes. This would help exonerate the defendant if he or she proves they were forced into prostitution. 

The bill would also make it easier for trafficking victims to receive services from agencies other than law enforcement by enabling victims to reach out to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, or the Office of Victim Services for help.

Increase penalties for stalking crimes. With so many technological advancements, we need to update our laws to reflect our changing world. Our laws are currently silent on the use of technology involved in stalking. 

In 1999, the state established the crimes of stalking in the first through fourth degree. It’s time we improve on those measures. Stalkers continue to find new ways to harass their victims with the internet, hidden cameras and caller ID for example. 

Our laws need to be updated to include technology as a tool stalkers use to track their victims by passing A3288.

Protect the parental rights of domestic abuse victims. When abuse is reported, the child(ren) is removed from his or her home. This law is designed, of course, to protect the child. 

Unfortunately, it often stops abuse victims from reporting domestic violence. In the case of “Melinda,” whose last name is not used to protect her identity, her husband abused her and eventually her children for years. She threatened to leave him and report his abuse. He told her that if she did so, her children would be taken away. 

Unfortunately, current law does not adequately protect the victims of domestic violence; children are taken away from the non-abusive parent until a determination of custody is made or a permanency hearing is held, unless the court makes an exception. 

Bill A8490 would provide a safe harbor for abused parents and their children in cases of domestic violence and allow them to report the abuse without the fear of their children being removed. The bill also makes provisions to allow custody to the victim parent if it is in the best interests of the child.

Mandatory jail time for repeat violators of orders of protection. I support mandatory prison sentences for those who repeatedly violate his or her order of protection of no less than 30 days (A6439). 

Many victims of domestic violence turn to our court system for relief and seek orders of protection to stop the violence. Abusers who violate them do not face mandatory jail time. In fact, all too often, it unfortunately provokes a perpetrator into retaliating against the victim and the order of protection. 

Mandatory jail time sends a strong message that orders of protection must be obeyed and violators will not be tolerated in New York state.

Require counseling for victims of sex crimes. Bill A1999 would require mandatory counseling for minor victims of sexual offenses. Too often, victims of sexual molestation or assault do not seek or receive counseling after an abuse. Sometimes a parent feels if the abuse is forgotten, it is best. 

The child may suffer behavioral issues later in life as a result. It should be incumbent on the parent to ensure that counseling is received.

 I support these measures and many others in the Assembly that better protect the public. It is my hope that before session ends that these measures pass so justice is better served and especially women can be protected from abuse.

 If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by email at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

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