Current Action on Sex Trafficking and Our Role
When you first learned that 12-14 year old girls are physically or sexually seduced into performing sex acts against their will, did you wonder how this could happen in the United States? What is the US doing to fight sex trafficking?
In the realm of law, the single most important legislation is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, landmark legislation which defined trafficking, differentiated it from prostitution, re-framed law enforcement perspectives on the issue and increased resources to assist them, and constructed productive rather than punitive mechanisms to protect girls and women. The latest re-authorization (passed as a part of the Violence Against Women Act) also increased funding for shelters, counseling and case management, and other resources to help girls who escape the sex industry, as well as publicize the National Human Trafficking Task Force hotline and center in government agencies, and institute additional provisions to protect children, international unaccompanied minors, and Native American women from sexual abuse and trafficking.[i] On a state level, in 2012 California voters passed the CASE Act, which lengthened prison terms and increased fines for trafficking crimes, required that traffickers’ identities be included in sex offender databases, and introduced mandatory training for law enforcement so they can better serve victims of trafficking.[ii]
Yet, while laws have been strengthened, conviction rates remain deplorably low. Currently, less than 5% of accused traffickers are ever found guilty.[iii] Rescued women and girls may fear retribution against themselves or their families, and often decline to testify in court because of their dread of facing their trafficker.
Ultimately, political initiatives are not enough. Government can punish those who exploit and harm others. But to be effective, one must change the culture, advocating for a change in the way people view the sex industry. People must become aware that most of the sex industry’s “glamour” is a façade that hides forced sex, and paying for sex ought to become socially unacceptable. Knowing, respecting, and loving others as unique, valuable people must be modeled and promoted as normal and desirable.
Valuing real relationships, rather than appreciating other people merely for their ability to fulfill sexual fantasies or emotional longings, will be a difficult but exciting cultural shift. African-American activist and educator Booker T. Washington believed that “[y]ou can't hold a man down without staying down with him.” The mentality and character which leads to enslaving and oppressing others ends up tyrannizing those who do such acts. More broadly, a culture which refuses to stand against hidden oppression and violence is blinding itself and leading itself down a road to become more exploitative.
Project Cultivate is dedicated to changing the culture through understanding and exposing exploitation in the sex industry, and to empowering survivors to be seen as people, not just fantasy images (in the sex industry) or victims (in assistance programs). Programs like AfterDark and our yearly fundraiser help raise awareness at APU and the broader community. Hundreds of other organizations engage in creative and effective ways to educate the American public.
Want to become part of the emerging culture of empowerment? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or search for organizations in your community which seek to reveal the truth of the sex industry, empower survivors, and decrease demand in the sex industry.
[i] “President Obama Signs the Violence Against Women Act: What it Means for Victims of Human Trafficking,” The Family Room blog overseen by the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services, March 8, 2013, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/blog/2013/03/president-obama-signs-the-violence-against-women-act (accessed March 25, 2016). Also referenced: Mary Ann Swissler, “Human Trafficking Bill Resurrected in Congress,” Women’s Media Center, February 15, 2013, http://www.womensmediacenter.com/feature/entry/human-trafficking-bill-resurrected-in-congress (accessed March 25, 2016) [this source is however about a version of the reauthorization which was amended before passage by the House and Senate].
[ii] “About,” CASE Act official website, copyright 2012, accessed March 23, 2016, http://www.caseact.org/about/.
[iii][iii] Vollkommer, Ryan. “ToGetHer Freedom Initiative.” Lecture, Together Freedom Initiative, Azusa CA, March 2, 2016.