Jan 6, 2023
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 Wednesday with 401 votes. The bill is aimed at protecting survivors of human trafficking and providing funds for programs that will fight such criminal activity, according to a Yahoo! News report.
The bill is a renewal of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and the expanded legislation would:
Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, the bill’s chief sponsor, hailed the legislation’s increased protections for vulnerable demographics.
“Human traffickers never take a holiday, nor can we,” Representative Smith said. “Because traffickers and the nefarious networks they lead always find new ways to exploit the vulnerable, especially women and children, we must aggressively strengthen laws and their implementation.”
Local educational agencies operating in a high-intensity sex trafficking area or a location with significant child labor trafficking would be prioritized for Frederick Douglass Human Trafficking Prevention Education Grants, according to a report from The Hill. Local educational agencies that work with nonprofit organizations focused on human trafficking prevention education and partner with law enforcement would also be prioritized (among other groups), The Hill report confirmed.
The measure also renewed the Department of Homeland Security’s Angel Watch Center, which was created by Smith’s International Megan’s Law, signed in 2016 by then-President Barack Obama, according to a report from NJ.com. Smith indicated to NJ.com that more than 7,000 convicted sex offenders have been blocked from traveling overseas thus far as a result of the law.
Under the law, foreign governments must be alerted when registered sex offenders travel abroad.
Megan’s Law was named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old from Hamilton, New Jersey, who was sexually assaulted and killed in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street, NJ.com confirmed.
California Congresswoman Karen Bass, who co-authored the bill, stressed the importance of passing such legislation.
“During my career as a health care worker and legislator, I have seen too many instances of human rights violations against children and other vulnerable populations – including those falling victim to the abuses of human trafficking, both in the U.S. and around the world,” Representative Bass said. “We must take this issue seriously and continue to implement a whole-of-government approach to addressing it. The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 moves to do this not only in supporting those who have already fallen victim, but to also prevent future trafficking and bring perpetrators to justice. We must swiftly pass this bipartisan measure to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 was passed by the House in a wide margin, with only one Democrat abstaining and 20 Republicans voting against the bill. One of the Republicans who voted against the legislation included Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, who is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice in a federal case involving allegations of sex trafficking a minor.
Passage of the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 comes just days before the United Nations’ annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, which is commemorated this year on July 30.
According to the United Nations (U.N.), this year’s theme focuses on:
Specifically, the U.N. notes that this year’s focus is an opportunity to highlight the role of technology as a tool that can “both enable and impede human trafficking.”
“With the global expansion in the use of technology – intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift of our everyday life to online platforms — the crime of human trafficking has conquered cyber space. The internet and digital platforms offer traffickers numerous tools to recruit, exploit, and control victims; organize their transport and accommodation; advertise victims and reach out to potential clients; communicate among perpetrators; and hide criminal proceeds – and all that with greater speed, cost-effectiveness and anonymity,” the U.N.’s website states.
How Do Criminals Use Technology in Human Trafficking?
According to the U.N., technology allows sexual predators and criminals in general to:
Additionally, the U.N. confirms that online platforms allow traffickers to widely advertise services provided by victims, including child photographical material.
Furthermore, the U.N. cautions that crisis situations – including the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine – can intensify the human trafficking problem.
“Criminals profit from the chaos, desperation, and separation of people – particularly women and children – from support systems and family members,” the U.N. said.
Moreover, the U.N. points to specific situations that can devolve into traps for unsuspecting individuals, particularly people on the move:
Technology can, however, offer an unpresented opportunity to combat human trafficking. As the U.N. notes, “Future success in eradicating human trafficking will depend on how law enforcement, the criminal justice systems and others can leverage.”
The International Labor Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation confirmed the following statistics in a September 2017 report:
Furthermore, human trafficking is a major global business, earning profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, according to an ILO report from 2014.
The following is a breakdown of profits according to sector:
As Forbes recently reported, Facebook parent company – Meta – failed to protect countless child models on Instagram from pedophiles.
Although Meta claims to have zero tolerance for child exploitation, the Forbes report included one case which contradicted the social media giant’s dedication to protecting users. According to Forbes:
“The case not only highlights a troubling corner of Instagram that acts as a marketplace for sexualized images of children, it also shows how easily those who exploit young people can elude banishment and return again and again, even after they’re arrested and charged. Despite years of criticism for how it fails to protect children, most recently via the leaks of former employee Frances Haugen, Meta, with $118 billion in 2021 revenue, relies a great deal on unpaid Instagram users and journalists to identify wrongdoers, and has a tough time keeping them off the platform or disposing of what they might leave behind.”
The report identified more than a dozen Instagram accounts repeatedly sexualizing children.
In February 2022, Los Angeles law enforcement officials announced the rescue of more than 80 human trafficking and sexual exploitation victims, including children, during a weeklong operation that also netted hundreds of arrests, according to a KTLA report.
The annual “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” took place together with the run-up to the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department confirmed.
According to Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the operation resulted in:
“Remember, this is one week only,” Villanueva said. “This is just one small slice of what happens throughout the entire year.”
The Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program offers a number of resources to minors and adult victims of Los Angeles trafficking, including specialized services. Additional information may be found in the Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program pamphlet.
If you suspect human trafficking activity, please alert the District Attorney’s Office via one of their dedicated hotlines: 888-539-2373 or 888-373-7888.
Some additional resources for human trafficking survivors include:
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) features both a national anti-trafficking hotline as well as a resource center serving victims and survivors of human trafficking and the anti-trafficking community in the U.S. The NHTRC’s toll-free hotline is available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year in more than 200 languages. If you or someone you care about has been victimized through human trafficking, call 888-373-7888 for help.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) was established in 1984 to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on issues related to missing and sexually exploited children. Currently NCMEC is authorized by Congress to perform 22 programs and services to assist law enforcement, families, and the professionals who serve them.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) within the U.S. Department of Justice has established an Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to help survivors find local programs, helplines, compensation programs, and more. The OVC provides resources for U.S. citizens both inside the country and abroad as well as international victims. One specific resource includes a searchable database allowing survivors to search by type of crime (such as human trafficking).
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) supports several programs to increase the availability of direct support services for children and youth who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Additionally, the OJJDP facilitates outreach efforts and helps to develop organizations’ capacities to identify and respond to this vulnerable population. Accordingly, the OJJDP funded the Specialized Services and Mentoring for Child and Youth Victims of Sex Trafficking Initiative. Additionally, with OJJDP support, the Youth Collaboratory developed a toolkit for youth service providers in an effort to better understand the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
National Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking was established to help judicial officers better understand the dynamics of domestic child sex trafficking and the applicable laws and legal considerations involving trafficking victims. Additionally, the program helps officials to better recognize and identify trafficked and at-risk children, and how to connect youth victims to appropriate services.
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