Thirteen. The average age a child starts being trafficked into the commercial sex trade here in America. This assault against human dignity does not discriminate based on age, race, gender, religion, nationality, or socioeconomic status, and deprives citizens of their basic human rights.
The United States cannot continue to improve efforts to combat trafficking and maintain a “gold standard” status on an international platform without a concentrated and uninterrupted plan to combat human trafficking – driven by legislation. It is essential that federal grants, prevention tools, and educational trainings remain in place and the services to those that have been trafficked remain seamlessly intact.
The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) provides grants to agencies who partner with non-profit organizations specializing in human trafficking prevention education who in turn educate law enforcement, technology and social media companies, and schools in an effort to protect children from labor trafficking and sexual exploitation. In addition, the data collection and reporting associated with these grants is vital to our understanding of human trafficking and assists with collaboration across the nation.
Prevention education is key to helping eradicate this insidious form of modern enslavement, but we have a duty to ensure that those who have already fallen victim to this crime have uninterrupted access to the social services that have been in place for years. Survivors deserve to be treated with respect and guaranteed access to relevant services to support and empower them on the path to restoration. As mentioned in the bill, these services assist victims with attaining “life-skills, employment, and education necessary to achieve self-sufficiency.”
Survivors of trafficking have contributed greatly to our counter-trafficking response efforts; becoming not just advocates for change, but leaders in a movement to create equality for all. So much so that the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking was established in 2015 which “provides a formal platform for trafficking survivors to advise and make recommendations on federal anti-trafficking policies to the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.” Unfortunately, this Council will be terminated if this bill is not reauthorized, silencing arguably the most important voice at the table.
This bill will also allow the extension of authorization under the International Megan’s Law which allows us to continue to obtain and share lists of traveling sex offenders with other countries so that “a person may not be issued or reissued a passport without a unique identifier” solely because the person has moved or chooses to travel. Human trafficking reaches well beyond our borders and is a fight that every country is faced with. The U.S. is considered a “Tier 1 rating” based on efforts to reduce trafficking domestically and abroad, but this is not the time to become complacent, especially considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on efforts to combat trafficking.
Congress is in charge of making sure bad bills do not pass. As the former Director of Human Trafficking Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can affirm and assert that this bill is both substantive and necessary. This is a good bill.
Combatting human trafficking is not a partisan issue or even a political issue; it is a matter of human decency and protection that is within our grasp to provide for our most vulnerable citizens. Congress should act swiftly to join together in unison and pass the H.R.6552 – Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022.
Bill Woolf, recipient of the Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons, is the former Special Advisor to the White House for Human Trafficking. He also served as Director of Human Trafficking Programs for the U.S. Department of Justice and acting Director for the Office for Victims of Crime (DOJ).