Bartlett: ‘My ears are not deaf to the voices of the enslaved’

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By: State Representative John L. Bartlett (D-Indianapolis)

Word Count: 488


House Bill 1200 co-authored by State Rep. John L. Bartlett (D-Indianapolis) which would enhance the penalties for human trafficking and protect minors who fell victim to sexual exploitation through human trafficking is now being considered in the Senate. What follows is an op-ed written by Bartlett, discussing his continued efforts to combat human trafficking in Indiana and the need for further study on the issue:


In 2019, 157 human trafficking cases were reported in Indiana. Even if only one Hoosier was involved per case, we're talking about 157 Hoosiers who endured unimaginable fear and abuse as they were enslaved. Men, women, children, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. No one is spared. Human trafficking has touched all 92 counties in Indiana.

It is a disease that we must stop. But if this year has taught us anything, it is that to overcome a disease, we must first understand it.

That is why for the past three years, I have authored legislation calling for an intensive, multi-year study on human trafficking by a legislative interim committee. All three times the bill has died without so much as a hearing. I have followed-up with personal letters to the Legislative Council, again asking that they conduct an intensive study of “human trafficking” during the interim. Still nothing. I am asking the General Assembly to take this essential first step, but they don't want to hear about it.

Our society has such an outdated way of thinking about human trafficking that the Attorney General's office has to debunk “myths” in their official fact sheet on the issue, which includes the thought that, “Well she (the victim) could escape while she's being moved.” If these “myths” are so ingrained in our society that we need to print them in official government documents, I have no doubt that some legislators may follow this line of thought, and that is completely unacceptable.

We need to sit legislators down in a study committee and make them take a good, hard look at the issue, so they are in the right headspace to create effective legislation.

So while I wait for the General Assembly to take real steps toward long-term solutions, I personally coordinate with agencies and advocates, like the Attorney General's office, to educate Hoosiers on the prevalence of human trafficking in Indiana. Prior to the pandemic, I put together plans to travel to each college and university in the state, starting with Ball State University, Martin University and Ivy Tech, to educate young people on the risks and signs of human trafficking. I truly believe education aids prevention and can save lives. I look forward to continuing these efforts once we reign in COVID-19.

I have also co-authored the single House bill dedicated to supporting human trafficking victims this legislative session. I applaud the efforts of House Bill 1200's Republican author (while also being aware that this great bill would have died if authored by a Democrat) and look forward to seeing it progress through the Senate.

I'm not trying to just check a box and move on to the next thing. I am here as the elected representative of House District 95 to protect my constituents, their families and all Hoosiers from the very real danger of human trafficking. My ears are not deaf to the voices of the enslaved.


If you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking, please report it to your local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-800-373-7888.

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