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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PORTMAN. Earlier this week, my colleague Senator Blumenthal spoke about an amendment we are offering to the Violence Against Women Act, and it is an amendment that has to do with child sex trafficking. I am pleased to join him in offering this important amendment and talking about it today.

This is really a technical correction to the underlying legislation to enhance the safety of our youth and our children in the area of sex trafficking.

Last November, Senator Blumenthal and I started the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking. We have been working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and have been making bipartisan progress on this issue. In general, we are working to raise awareness of human trafficking, and with regard to the underlying bill, the issue of child sex trafficking.

This issue cuts across all party and philosophical lines. It is something that is more fundamental. It is about who we are as a people, and how we respect and protect basic human dignity. It is important to acknowledge that human trafficking is not something we hear about that happens overseas; it happens right here in America. Unfortunately, human trafficking is an issue present in communities in Ohio and Connecticut--where Senator Blumenthal is from--and in all of our States.

Children and youth are among the most vulnerable individuals and are at the greatest risk. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are now nearly 300,000 young Americans who are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.

The Department of Justice reports that between 2008 and 2010, 83 percent of sex trafficking victims found within the United States were U.S. citizens. By the way, 40 percent of those cases involve sexual exploitation of children. Human trafficking has a devastating impact on so many Americans across this country.

One of the reasons we lack data on the definitive number of victims is that there are limited programs and resources available to serve these children nationwide, and this problem is not limited to large cities or metropolitan areas.

In Ohio, 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 the victims surveyed confirmed they had been raped 1 year before being trafficked.

Dr. Celia Williamson, from Toledo, OH, is one of the key individuals responsible for this report and continues to work to strengthen the response to sex trafficking in Ohio. Dr. Williamson developed the program, RESCUE CHILD, which educates first responders and everyday citizens on how to recognize the signs of child sex trafficking.

This is an important issue for Ohio. Toledo, OH, is among the highest in the country in terms of prosecution and investigations of sex trafficking.

Dr. Williamson has helped to educate folks to identify signs of sex trafficking and high vulnerability. Some of the key signs of high vulnerability to sex trafficking are youth who have run away from home and children who are victims of sexual assault, emotional abuse, child abuse, or neglect. In order to fight human trafficking, we have to prioritize services to these vulnerable youth and connect victims of sex trafficking with appropriate resources.

So this amendment is really just a technical amendment to ensure that we protect these child victims of sex trafficking and provide them with what is necessary to fully recover from this devastating trauma.

Section 302 of the reauthorization of VAWA is appropriating titled ``Creating Hope Through Outreach, Options, Services, and Education for Children and Youth.'' The intent of this section is to ``develop, expand, and strengthen victim-centered interventions and services that target victim-centered youth who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.''

Section 302 omits the term ``sex trafficking'' except in the context of a ``co-occurrence'' with one of these other factors I mentioned. So in order to be covered under this section, victims would have to be victims of sexual assault or another violation as well as victims of sex trafficking.

The omission of ``sex trafficking'' seems to be inadvertent because it is inconsistent with the similar sections of the reauthorization. One example of this is found in Section 902, which provides grants to Indian tribunal governments for the safety of women and youth. This section provides for ``services to address the needs of youth who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking.'' So sex trafficking is in one section but not in another. We want to clarify that being a victim of sex trafficking alone should be sufficient to be covered under this act.

I thank Senator Blumenthal for his commitment to this issue, and I thank my colleagues, including the ranking member and the chairman who are here on the floor today. I hope to offer this amendment at the appropriate point in the process, but I wanted to speak a little bit about it and explain why Senator Blumenthal and I would like to offer this. Again, we hope it will be a noncontroversial, technical correction to ensure that sex trafficking is included among those provisions that are listed in Section 302.

I yield the floor.


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