Bill to Create Harsher Penalties for Sex Traffickers and Buyers Passed by Nebraska Legislature

LB 289, which increases penalties for trafficking and solicitation of individuals who have been trafficked, passed today in the Nebraska State Legislature with a vote of 48-0. The bill also includes protections for minors and trafficked individuals from being criminalized.

“Effective and collaborative policy is one part of how we are working to end sex trafficking – which happens in every neighborhood throughout our state,” said Traci Bruckner, research and policy director at the Women’s Fund of Omaha. “We must do more and work collectively to create systems change that ensures survivors have the resources they need to heal, including opportunities for economic security.”

Before this bill, most trafficking offenses, including buying a trafficked individual, carried no minimum sentences, so the consequences of those crimes were as little as probation. Under LB 289, solicitation of a commercial sex act with any individual without consent is a felony. In addition, this bill allows those who purchase sex with a minor (solicitation) to be prosecuted as traffickers.

“While it seems impossible to most Nebraskans, facts clearly show that human trafficking is present in Nebraska. After learning of the incredibly lenient penalties in our state, the issue of Human Trafficking quickly became a top priority of mine in the Legislature. I am incredibly grateful to the Attorney General, the Women’s Fund of Omaha, and the countless others who have helped send the message that Nebraska will no longer tolerate the heinous crime of human trafficking here in our state,” said Senator Patty Pansing Brooks.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, sex traffickers often use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to force adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. LB 289 provides protections for individuals who have been trafficked. The previous law did not protect victims who are coerced into participating in the trafficking of other victims. This law gives explicit exception to victims of trafficking, including increased protections for minors.

“By passing LB 289, we are telling traffickers and buyers that we will not tolerate sex trafficking in our state. This is a victory, but it is one small step in ending sex trafficking in Nebraska.” Said Meghan Malik, Women’s Fund of Omaha trafficking project manager.

In addition to recent research and working to change policy, the Women’s Fund of Omaha is committed to a comprehensive approach to ending sex trafficking including strengthening survivor leadership, creating cross-sector coalitions, increasing education and awareness, enhancing service provider capacity.

“I am proud that our state responded by standing behind victims and survivors. Nebraska believes in justice and I am grateful that our elected officials said ‘enough,’” said Rachel Pointer, survivor and advocate. “In true Nebraska fashion, LB 289 draws a line in the proverbial sand, and we will hold that line as we tirelessly pursue protection for the vulnerable and accountability for those who would abuse and exploit them.”

To stop trafficking, community-wide action is needed. If you see something, say something. Call the Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888.