Justice for Victims of Trafficking One Year Anniversary
by Ted Poe on May 31, 2016 at 5:38 PM
It happened right under the entire community’s nose. Eight year old Jen Spry was raped and tortured on a daily basis.
She was not kidnapped by a stranger in a dark alley. She was trafficked just a few doors down from her mother’s house.
It was NOT just Jen who was trafficked. Her younger sister, a male cousin, and a whole group of kids from her hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania were victims as well
No one ever went looking for the children, simply because they never went missing. From 3-6 pm every day she was forced to have sex with strangers, because, as she describes it, it was her job.
The children were coerced into participating and threatened into keeping it a secret. The trafficking finally ended when she was about 10 when the neighbor suddenly moved away.
Jen went to great lengths to hide the abuse from her single mother, who never found out about the tragedies that Jen experienced. In fact, Jen did not speak out about what happened until after her mother passed away.
Stories like Jen’s drove us to write JVTA. As did stories like Tina Frundt’s, who joins us today
She is a huge part of the solution with her organization Courtney’s House and her membership on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking created by JVTA as well as the persistence of many of the groups present today.
The United States views itself as a leader in the fight against human trafficking. Even going as far as to grade other countries on their efforts to combat trafficking in persons.
Yet, before the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) became law, I heard about common issues from survivors anti-trafficking organizations on the national, state, and local levels, as well as law enforcement and local leaders. Some of the common concerns included:
The federal government barely funds efforts to combat trafficking in the United States. Trafficking victims are often arrested and treated as criminals, but buyers are often not.
Many Americans including those that interact with trafficking victims--law enforcement, educators, medical professionals, and others --do not know about human trafficking or understand how to identify victims. Hearing this message loud and clear, a bipartisan, bicameral group of Members of Congress set out to write a bill using the survivor experience to guide us and learning from programs around the country that are working to fight trafficking and serve victims.
Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York and I lead the effort on JVTA in the House. Congresswoman Maloney and I hardly speak the same language
Being from New York she thinks I talk funny and as Texan I can hardly understand her either the effort was led by another unusual pair in the Senate.
A Texas Republican, Senator John Cornyn and an Oregon Democrat, Senator Ron Wyden 11 anti-trafficking bills passed through the House, including those lead by some of the wonderful women here today.
The bills were combined in the Senate, came back to the House, passed overwhelmingly and were signed into law.
The law addresses the common problems we heard from the field. We created a Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund that makes those who harm vulnerable people pay for the damage they have caused.
A $5,000 special assessment is collected from those convicted of human trafficking and other related charges, and goes into a Fund to provide resources to victims and those fighting trafficking.
A fundamental goal of JVTA is for victims of human trafficking to be treated as victims and not criminals. This is addressed in a number of provisions in the law, including a newly created community-based block grant.
We also focus on the demand—buyers, those that exploit women and children. While many call these people “johns,” I call them child molesters.
John is a name from the Bible, a good guy, not someone who pays money to abuse a fellow person.
JVTA clarifies that those who buy sex from trafficking victims are human traffickers, can and should be punished under federal law, and are subject to the same penalties as sellers.
JVTA has done a lot to change the mindset of people in this country. But we need the law to be fully implemented by all the agencies charged with executing the law including DOJ, HHS, and DHS.
In order to truly be the leader in the fight against modern day slavery, we anxiously await the response to our letter. A society will be judged by how it treats the most vulnerable.
And that’s just the way it is.