Human trafficking exists in almost every area of the world. Children, young women, and even men can become trapped, and forced into the sex trade and involuntary labor.
Many Americans think of human trafficking as a problem that exists far away from the United States. But the U.S. government says as many as 17,500 people are trafficked within this country every year. That number does not include those who are kidnapped and forced to become sex slaves within U.S. borders. Now the House of Representatives has taken action to help the victims and punish those responsible.
Shandra Woworuntu is a survivor of human trafficking. She met with House members in Washington this week. She spoke in support of damage payments and other government services to help victims.
Shandra is from Indonesia. She is college educated and worked as a financial specialist in her country until she lost her job because of political unrest. She came to the United States in 2001. At the time, she thought she had been offered a job in the hospitality industry. Instead, she was kidnapped at a New York airport and forced into sex slavery.
“During my arrival, someone picked me up, and took me into the van. They took my passport, they took my hidden ticket, and the same day I was trafficking into underground sex business.”
Shandra escaped, and her trafficker is now in prison. She received help from a non-profit group. She is now working to make people better informed on the problem of human trafficking.
The two main parties in the U.S. Congress agreed on five bills to help state and local governments develop victim-center programs. Under the proposals, the governments would train law enforcement officers to rescue victims, and not treat them as sex workers.
Eric Cantor of Virginia is the House Majority leader.
“And we must confront this issue head on, not just as Republicans, not just as Democrats, but as dads, as moms, as sisters and brothers. We must protect our children.”
New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has worked to fight human trafficking around the world for more than 10 years.
“And there is no crime on Earth more appalling, no offense as terrible, no act of depravity as harmful to the community of a nation and certainly to the individuals affected.”
The five bills also seek to reduce the demand for human trafficking. They do this by urging police and judges to treat those who have sex with children as human traffickers, not everyday criminals. The average age for girls forced into sex slavery is 13. The average age for boys is 12.