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Top News Hope for Justice endorses reauthorization of vital U.S. anti-trafficking legislation

Hope for Justice endorses reauthorization of vital U.S. anti-trafficking legislation

This week Hope for Justice joined 75 other organizations and leaders in the anti-trafficking movement to sign a support letter for the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was delivered to members of the U.S. Senate today. The bill is named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was at the forefront of the original movement to abolish slavery and then to ending the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation and racism, and who escaped from slavery himself 186 years ago.

The Frederick Douglass Memorial in Central Park, New York City

Below news release courtesy Ascend:

According to the State Department’s latest Trafficking in Person’s (TIP) Report released this week, victim identification is low and funding remains inadequate for services provided to victims of human trafficking in the United States—especially housing for survivors of trafficking. Surprisingly, funding for housing and awareness education to increase victim identification has not been reauthorized under the law, but there’s one last hope: before Congress heads home for a grueling campaign season, it can reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in order to empower survivors and protect the children of America. This Congress has been dubbed the “Child Protection Congress” for its catalog of child protection bills, but to live up to its name, it must reauthorize critical legislation that will not only provide lifesaving services but empower educators to identify the thousands of potential trafficking victims sitting at desks across our nation’s schools.

In 2023 alone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 36 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation, with human traffickers targeting children between the ages 11-14 years old for sex trafficking. Additionally, reports have continued to surface that children as young as 13 years old are forced to work overnight in factories throughout the United States. Yet 99.6% of victims exploited in human trafficking are never identified—and criminal networks want to keep it that way.

Educators are on the frontlines for both victim identification and human trafficking prevention as teachers are some of the people most likely to receive reports of human trafficking from children or to recognize exploitation among vulnerable children and youth. This fact hit home on a global level in 2022 when professional athlete Sir Mo Farah revealed that his own healing from child trafficking did not begin until he disclosed his situation to a P.E. teacher. Education is the most impactful and cost-effective way to both prevent abuse and report exploitation, but most school systems still fail to implement and operationalize it. By reauthorizing provisions in the Frederick Douglass TVPA, teachers will be equipped to recognize the signs of grooming, spot traffickers, and empower children to report abuse.

The TVPA uses the Human Trafficking Youth Prevention Education Demonstration Program, also known as “HTYPE” grants, which fund local school districts to partner with nonprofits for development and implementation of programs created to prevent human trafficking among students, engaging administrators, teachers, parents, and local law enforcement. Prevention education goes upstream from the problem to stop abuse before it happens; there are countless stories of children empowered by school-based trafficking prevention education who have self-reported their abuse or recognized a grooming situation and stopped trafficking before it escalated.

Additionally, one of the most critical needs for survivors of trafficking is access to safe and affordable housing: an expensive and core aspect of recovery. In 2021, the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime allocated $34 million for housing for survivors of trafficking, but every year since then this allocation has plummeted dramatically despite soaring inflation. This year the funding awards total just over $16 million, but the provisions in the Frederick Douglass TVPA would remedy this by allocating a much-needed base of $35 million in funding for housing every year. According to Tasha Kennard, CEO of Thistle Farms, one of the largest survivor residential programs in the nation, “Affordable and safe housing is a critical, yet chronically underfunded and under-resourced need for survivors of human trafficking.”

After recovery, one of the most common reasons why survivors remain unable to thrive is because they lack solid employment. The TVPA has a new provision which would also remedy this essential gap by supporting enrollment and participation in high school diploma programs, college and technical program scholarships, English as a second language education, job skills and life-skills training, professional coaching and counseling. With these new grant provisions, TVPA can help nonprofit organizations welcome survivors into robust supportive services.

While the bill sailed through the House of Representatives earlier this year with a vote of 414 to 11, it has stalled in the Senate as only the International Trafficking Victims Protection Act was reported in June 2023. Leaders in Congress must act now. With the encouraging surge of new child protection legislation in the 118th Congress, U.S. Senators would be wise to prioritize passage of the Frederick Douglass TVPA to empower survivors and work toward a future where vulnerable children never suffer from a trafficker’s abuse.

young girl