Creating Safe Havens for Victims and Putting Traffickers Behind Bars
After leading the campaign to put domestic sex trafficking of children on the national agenda, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), worked with Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to include key provisions of his legislation into the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). The TVPRA, with several of Senator Wyden’s provisions, was passed into law as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in 2013 and represents an important step forward in putting an end to modern-day slavery.
The Wyden-authored provisions passed in VAWA created a pilot block grant program for four areas of the country hardest hit by sex trafficking. Once funded, these grants can be used to create a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to combat sex trafficking of minors. Each block grant is authorized at $1.5 to $2 million per year for up to four years.
- Housing for child victims of sex trafficking
- Clothing and other daily needs in order to keep victims from returning to the street
- Mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, and case management
- Victims’ assistance counseling and legal services
- Education or job training classes for victims
- Outreach, education, and deterrence/prevention efforts
- Education and training for law enforcement personnel on how to investigate crimes involving the sex trafficking of minors who are United States citizens or aliens admitted for permanent residence, including how to identify minor victims of sex trafficking
Addressing Sex Trafficking in the Child Welfare System
Research suggests that the majority of trafficked youth in the United States have been in and out of the child welfare system, specifically foster care. Too often, the protections, services and protocols established for abused and neglected children within the child welfare system are not extended to trafficked children and youth, and in many states, such children aren’t even categorized as victims. Instead, they are often sent to the juvenile justice system and criminalized for being raped and trafficked.
One of the struggles in gaining attention to the issue of child sex trafficking is the lack of reliable data. Senator Wyden and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the bipartisan Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013 to address this shortcoming, particularly as it relates to children in the child welfare system.
The bill would improve state and national data on the scope and prevalence of child sex trafficking and bring reforms to better identify and assist victims of child sex trafficking.
Establishing the “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund” to Help Turn Victims into Survivors
Most recently, Senator Wyden introduced The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act with U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) which supports programs that help trafficking victims by creating a deficit neutral “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund.” The Fund is financed through fines on persons convicted of trafficking and other sex crimes and will increase federal resources available by up to $30 million per year.
A hallmark provision of the bill creates new victim-centered block grants funded entirely by the “Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund.” The grants would allow state and local governments to develop and implement programs to train law-enforcement to rescue victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the lives of victims.
Senator Wyden’s record to combat sex trafficking
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