U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), have introduced an amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S.47) that would ensure that would ensure that child victims of sex trafficking are eligible to receive assistance under grants provided to enhance the safety of youth and children.
Portman and Blumenthal are co-chairs of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking.
“In order to fight human trafficking, we must prioritize services to vulnerable youth and connect victims of sex trafficking with appropriate resources,” said Portman. “Our amendment recognizes that the youth who are the most vulnerable to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are also the most vulnerable to sex trafficking and should be afforded the same protections necessary to fully recover from this devastating trauma.”
“Domestic minor sex trafficking permeates urban, rural, and suburban communities in Ohio and across America. Reauthorizing VAWA will provide continued safety, support, and recovery for countless victims of domestic and sexual violence,” said Celia Williamson, leader of the Lucas County, Ohio Human Trafficking Coalition and author of the 2012 Human Trafficking Commission Report.
“I am pleased that Senator Portman offered this important amendment to ensure that youth who are the victims of frequent, pervasive, and heinous acts of violence, as victims of sex trafficking, can receive the services necessary to recover. In Ohio, this change will increase coordinated efforts to prevent sex trafficking and strengthen the ability of state and local governments, social services, and victims services to respond to the unique needs of sex trafficking victims.”
According to the FBI, there are currently an estimated 293,000 American youth at risk of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. Moreover, DOJ reports that between 2008-2010, 83 percent of sex trafficking victims found within the U.S. were U.S. citizens, and 40 percent of those cases involved the sexual exploitation of children. One reason we lack data as to the definitive numbers of victims is that there are limited resources and programs available to serve these children nationwide.
The 2012 Human Trafficking Commission Report surveyed more than 300 Ohio youth victims of sex trafficking. The report found that 40 percent were also victims of sexual abuse. 47 percent of victims surveyed confirmed that they had been raped more than a year before being trafficked.
In June 2012, the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force developed policy recommendations for the state to improve how the state prevents and responds to human trafficking. Many of the recommendations centered on strengthening services available for youth victims of sex trafficking, including recommendations help victims of trafficking by making human trafficking services and treatment a priority and coordinating efforts to identify a statewide provider network that will serve as the first response system for minor human trafficking victims. Portman and Blumenthal’s amendment is a step toward adopting these recommendations as we address child victims of sex trafficking under VAWA.
Section 302 of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 is entitled “Creating Hope through Outreach, Option, Services, and Education for Children and Youth.” This section authorizes grants to enhance the safety of youth and children who are victims of, or exposed to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Portman’s amendment adds “sex trafficking” as a criteria for victims services in Section 302 and will help ensure that child victims of sex trafficking receive essential services just as those afforded to child victims of “domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking” in this section.