West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill Thursday that would criminalize labor and sex trafficking, according to a news release from his office.
West Virginia is one of two states in the nation that didn't have criminal laws against human trafficking.
In March, West Virginia legislature passed the state's first anti-human trafficking bill (HB 4053). The bill criminalizes both labor and sex trafficking and authorizes the training of law enforcement to identify and effectively investigate cases of human trafficking.
Lead Sponsor Delegate Bonnie Brown and the chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee made sure the new legislation addressed three areas: establishing the guidelines of labor and sex trafficking, increases protections for underage victims of sex trafficking, and allows training for law enforcement to identify human trafficking victims and investigations.
"West Virginia is beginning to realize that human trafficking is happening throughout the nation and our state is no exception," stated Sue Julian, team coordinator of the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "Domestic violence programs serve as a primary source of safety and support for victims of trafficking in West Virginia who endure unthinkable acts of violence and torture. This new law will help in holding traffickers accountable and giving victims a chance for freedom."
Wyoming is the only state left that has no criminal laws against sex or labor trafficking.