Breakpoint: The Problem of Sexual Trafficking

The Problem of Sexual Trafficking

Human trafficking is an offense against human dignity, a crime in which human beings, many of them teenagers and young children, are bought and sold and often sexually abused by violent criminals. Our nation is determined to fight and end this modern form of slavery.President George W. Bush, upon signing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, January 10, 2006.

There’s another humanitarian crisis spreading, yet hidden from view. Each year, an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold or forced across the world’s borders.

There’s a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of [the] sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life-an underground of brutality and lonely fear. Those who create these victims and profit from their suffering must be severely punished. Those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others. And governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery.President George W. Bush, United Nations, New York, New York, September 23, 2003.

Ending the sexual trafficking of women and children is a top international priority. The CIA reports that up to 100,000 women are trafficked annually into the United States alone. Up to four million children are forced into prostitution annually, according to the Protection Project of Johns Hopkins University.

After he returned from a trip to northern Thailand, Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, told about a 14-year-old girl abducted and sold into a brothel there. The first night seven men raped her. The first paid extra to rape a virgin and insisted her mouth be taped to muffle her screams. Sadly, this is representative of the experiences of millions of women and children worldwide.

Chuck Colson and Bill Bennett brought together the coalition that assisted in drafting and obtaining passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). This bill provides for severe punishment of traffickers; funding to combat trafficking; sanctions against countries tolerating trafficking; protection for victims; and the establishment of a task force that would release an annual report grading countries. This bill was reauthorized in 2006.

In 2003, the PROTECT Act was also signed into law. This law makes it a crime for any person to enter the United States, or for any citizen to travel abroad, for the purpose of sex tourism involving children. Violators face up to thirty years in prison.

For nearly four years, Ambassador John Miller worked tirelessly in the State Department to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. In 2006, he stepped down from his post to take an academic position at George Washington University. But, as Mariam Bell, Prison Fellowship’s National Director of Public Policy, mentioned in the January/February 2007 BreakPoint WorldView
On the Hill column, much has been done in the executive branch during the Bush administration to combat trafficking:

The U.S. Department of Justice has also played a key role in anti-trafficking work. The department has set up forty-two city-wide task forces designed to find victims, who are often hidden by their captors. These task forces are multi-disciplinary, bringing to the table law enforcement, victim service providers, and community members who are likely to come across a victim. This has quadrupled the number of prosecutions in the last three years. This is the retail work of trafficking. Much has been said at the wholesale level-international conferences, awareness campaigns, and in the media-but the real proof is in the numbers: how many victims have been removed and how many slave traders have gone to prison. 

Leadership in other agencies has also been critical. Health and Human Services provides restorative care for victims; the Department of Labor investigates workplace violations; and the State Department provides grant money to non-governmental organizations working in countries around the world at the community level. These efforts are indispensable to a comprehensive approach.

As awareness has grown and talk about the problem has increased, what is needed now is decisive action. Now is the time to build on Ambassador Miller’s great record, says Mariam Bell. We need to export U.S. law enforcement expertise and experience. Countries that are now aware and willing need on-the-ground technical assistance and training. Their trafficking programs need to be focused down at the street level where the victims are trapped. The next ambassador will want to do what the Justice Department has done: quadruple the number of cases in each country around the world.

Contact these organizations to learn more about the problem and how you can help support efforts to combat sexual trafficking:

International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org)
P.O. Box 58147
Washington, DC 20037-8147
Phone: 703-465-5495
Fax: 703-465-5499
contact@ijm.org

Protection Project (www.protectionproject.org)
The Paul H. Nitze School
of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
The Johns Hopkins University
1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel: 202-663-5894
Fax: 202-663-5899
Protection_Project@jhu.edu

ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) (www.ecpatusa.org)
157 Montague Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: (718) 935-9192
Fax: (718) 935-9173
ecpat@ecpatusa.org

Shared Hope (www.sharedhope.org)
P.O. Box 65337
Vancouver, WA 98665
Phone: 1-866-HER-LIFE
savelives@sharedhope.org

Visit the website for the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Also see the Department of Justice page on trafficking.

For Further Reading and Information
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~ by thoughtcrime2 on January 17, 2007.

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