Yesterday, Representative Buerkle (NY-25) spoke at the 7th Annual Meeting of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues and the National Association of Women Judges. Buerkle spoke to the group about her role as co-chair of the Human Trafficking Taskforce and the work she has been doing to bring awareness to this egregious human rights violation. Text of Congresswoman Buerkle's remarks can be found below.
Good afternoon. My name is Ann Marie Buerkle, and I represent the 25th District of New York (Central and Western New York from Syracuse to Rochester). I am a registered nurse and attorney and a former New York State Assistant Attorney General.
I am so pleased that all of you could be here today to hear from these expert panelists about an issue that should be of grave concern to all Americans: human trafficking.
My committee work and membership on the Women's Caucus have led me to become engaged on trafficking issues. I have met with survivors of trafficking, listened to the testimony of the family members of survivors, and discussed trafficking issues with experts from NGOs focusing on anti-trafficking efforts.
Recently, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and I, as co-chairs of the Trafficking Taskforce on the Women's Caucus, held a briefing focused on ending the demand for domestic minor-sex trafficking.
Human trafficking has serious and long-lasting physical and psychological consequences for survivors. Research suggests that the physical costs to trafficking survivors may include drug and alcohol addiction, severe physical injuries, traumatic brain injury, sexually transmitted diseases, infections or mutilations, malnourishment, and other undetected or untreated diseases. Girls and women may also experience complications from frequent high-risk pregnancies, sterility, miscarriages, menstrual problems, forced or coerced pregnancies, and abortions.
The psychological impact of human trafficking may include Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, depression, phobias, suicidal thoughts, disassociated ego states, grief, fear, distrust, self-blame and self-hatred, and shame.
But the tragedy is not borne by the women and children alone but by the families and communities that are left scarred by the loss and diminished by the weight of their moral apathy.
I believe that the trafficking of human beings into forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution is one of the seminal issues of our time. There are currently 12.3 million people in slavery around the world, victims of trafficking: young women promised jobs as au pairs and models in Western Europe, entire families in bondage to factory owners in India, Brazilian children sold in to the sex trade by desperate parents, and runaways from New York to California, often victims of abuse at home, just looking for a way out. The faces of trafficking are diverse. The term trafficking itself is not even a completely accurate description, because millions of trafficking victims never leave the area in which they lived prior to being trafficked.
All of these forms of trafficking have in common the denial of freedom and basic human dignity, and for far too many--the withholding of justice.
As the faces of trafficking are diverse, so too are the societal remedies. Effectively fighting world-wide trafficking and slavery requires a collaborative approach that involves all levels of government, NGOs, law enforcement, and health care professionals.
If we are going to effectively address the trafficking of women and children in America, then we must do so as communities as well as a federal government. And that includes addressing the demand in our towns and cities and suburbs, a demand provided by people in our own communities who blend in among us, our neighbors, our coworkers, God forbid, our friends and family members.
The trafficking and enslavement of millions of people should be an issue of grave concern to all of us. We should be engaged because it not only affects us as a country--our security, our commerce, our communities and families; but most significantly, the issue speaks to our common humanity.