Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee sent a message to the perpetrators of modern sexual slavery today when it approved legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). The FBI estimates that each year more than 100,000 underage girls are exploited for commercial sex in the United States. The Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act will put forward a model for rescuing these young women by providing block grants for a six state pilot project that will give law enforcement enhanced tools for cracking down on the pimps who orchestrate sex trafficking while creating shelters and providing treatment, counseling and legal aid for the minor victims.
“Today’s bipartisan vote sends a clear message that sexual slavery will not be tolerated in the United States,” Wyden said. “Putting a real end to sex trafficking means doing more than just locking up those involved. A serious effort must also be made to address the factors driving the cycle of exploitation. Our approach will do this by focusing law enforcement on the real criminals – the pimps abusing underage girls for profit – while giving these young women the tools they need to escape their abusers.”
“These young victims pose unique challenges to law enforcement and service providers,” Cornyn said. “Their cooperation with authorities is often impeded by the victims’ fragile psychological state, and further complicated by the threat of physical violence posed by the evildoers who exploit children for profit. Our bill is aimed at developing collaborative programs to help victims begin the physical and mental healing process. Providing these services will dramatically increase the chances of a victim’s cooperation and help law enforcement bring down sex-trafficking rings, which are often associated with international criminal syndicates and street gangs.”
Block grant locations would be chosen by how they rate on criteria such as the presence of significant sex trafficking activity; demonstrated participation by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers; and a workable plan to provide comprehensive, wrap-around services to sex trafficking victims, including the establishment of a shelter facility.
Each block grant would be funded at $ 2 - 2.5 million per year and could be renewed for two additional years. Items to be funded by the block grants would include:
· A shelter for trafficking victims;
· Clothing and other daily needs in order to keep victims from returning to the street;
· Victims' assistance counseling and legal services;
· Education or job training classes for victims;
· Specialized training for law enforcement and social service providers;
· Police officer salaries - patrol officers, detectives, investigators;
· Prosecutor salaries, and other trial expenses;
· Investigation expenses - wire taps, expert consultants, travel, other "technical assistance" expenditures; and
· Outreach, education, and prevention efforts, including programs to deter offenders.
The bill will also help boost prompt reporting of information on missing and abducted children to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. More timely reporting will help law enforcement identify repeat runaways, who are statistically proven to be more likely to be lured into prostitution.