Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins lauded the unanimous passage today of legislation designed to make it easier for child victims of sex-trafficking to obtain justice. House Bill 5278, approved by the Illinois Senate, extends the statute of limitations for sex-trafficking offenses involving child victims to one year after the victim turns 18. It will go to the House for a concurrence vote before awaiting the governor’s signature.

“It is extremely difficult for a child who has been a victim of sex-trafficking to press charges against the exploiter when as a minor she is still in a vulnerable and dependent position, often unable to live on her own,” said Sen. Collins, the legislation’s sponsor in the Senate. “Giving victims an extra year past the age of majority can make the difference between living in fear and seeing justice done.”

Sen. Collins’ legislation also specifies that when perpetrators – by deceiving their victims – cause them to fear they will suffer serious harm if they attempt to escape, they are forcing them into involuntary servitude, even if they do not physically restrain or injure them. LeAnn Majors, a survivor of human trafficking, testified in a Senate committee that expanding the definition of involuntary servitude is essential to rescuing human trafficking victims, especially children, from their captors.

“I was told [by police], ‘Come back when you have bruises,’” Majors said. “Victims don’t always have bruises, but inside they have fear. [This protection] wasn’t there for me, but I want it to be there for others.”

"We have made significant progress in the legislative arena in recent years when it comes to cracking down on the sex trafficking of children and this legislation is another step forward that will help police and prosecutors obtain justice for the youngest victims of this horrific crime," Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said. "We are grateful to Senator Collins for her hard work on this legislation and her leadership on this important issue." 

The current statute of limitations for sex-trafficking – whether involving a child or an adult – is three years from the time of the last offense against the victim. Other sex crimes involving children allow for an extra year after the victim turns 18 if three years have already passed. For instance, if a victim was 12 when the trafficking offense occurred, charges could be filed against the perpetrator until the victim’s 19th birthday. However, charges could be filed against the exploiter of a 17-year-old at any time until the victim turns 20, because the statute of limitations cannot be less than three years.

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