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Tackling the Problem of Human Trafficking of Runaway and Foster Youth
In my former life, I was a criminal court judge for 22 years and spent 8 years as a prosecutor in Texas. Child abusers are the worst criminals in our society. But too often the justice system ignores the victim. So Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) and I founded the Victims' Rights Caucus. The VRC is currently focused on combating human trafficking.
This topic is of particular interest to me because my hometown of Houston, Texas is unfortunately a hub for this despicable crime. Many are not aware that modern day slavery occurs right here in the United States. The problem is very real, especially amongst vulnerable youth in the child welfare system. This is Anna's story which Shared Hope International shared with me.
After Anna's family passed away, she was placed in the foster care system at the age of three. She was shuffled from home to home until age 12 when she was finally adopted by a loving family. But Anna began hanging out at the corner store without her family knowing. There, she met a person whom she thought she could trust. Little did she know that the person she met at the corner store was not actually a friend at all. One day, when she got into a fight with her parents, she called her "friend" from the store, who promptly picked her up. Anna didn't know that this call would change her life forever.
Her "friend" was actually a trafficker. He was violent. He beat her and sold her body. The emotional, physical and sexual abuse continued. He threatened her family's lives if she called the police. She was told the police would arrest her. And that's exactly what happened. The police did arrest her. She was treated like a criminal, not a victim.
Anna became convinced that her family no longer wanted her. She felt helpless and scared. After almost four years of this unspeakable abuse, Anna eventually escaped and was reunited with her family.
Through strength, a resilient spirit, and with the help of her mother, Anna vowed to make a difference one victim at a time.
She now has a ministry for sex trafficking survivors and runs an outreach program for at-risk youth.
Unfortunately, Anna's story is not unique.
The scars from the foster care system stayed with her and made her vulnerable to trafficking. Many foster youth have experienced neglect, physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. These factors make children more susceptible to trafficking.
The child welfare system has tremendous problems and one major challenge is to not only put a roof over a child's head, but to instill values--like self-worth--in each child. Child sex predators try to steal the soul of their victim when they are assaulted.
I will soon introduce the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act with Congresswoman Maloney. The companion will be offered by Senator Cornyn and Senator Wyden.
This bill will create a grant program to help State and local governments develop and implement comprehensive victim-centered programs.
The bill creates a "Domestic Trafficking Victims' Fund'' at the Treasury, financed through fines on persons convicted of human trafficking and child exploitation crimes, which can be used to fund support programs for victims of human trafficking.
Criminals will literally pay for their crime and for the system they have created. Included in the bill are a number of other provisions to ensure victims receive justice and traffickers and buyers are prosecuted.
In this country we have 5000 shelters ..... For animals, according to the ASPCA. These shelters are great. I got my Dalmatians from a shelter.
But we have less than 300 beds for domestic minor sex trafficking victims according to a recent survey by Shared Hope International. We must have facilities to rescue and restore these victims.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act builds upon the End Sex Trafficking Act, that I have already filed with Congresswoman Maloney. This bill will help combat human trafficking by targeting the criminals who purchase sexual acts and ensuring they are prosecuted as human traffickers.
This bill goes after the anonymous buyers of child sex slavery. Target the demand in order to stop the sale of children.
The days of boys being boys are over and the long arm of the law must go after these consumers.
Justice demands it and justice is what we do in this country. And that's just the way it is.