By Ian Kitterman, Demand Abolition Policy Manager
Sunday, May 29 marks the one-year anniversary of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The JVTA is the largest piece of legislation dedicated to human trafficking since the original passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000. It acknowledges the need for more support services for victims and renews the US government’s commitment to improving its response to domestic human trafficking. The act also mandates that the federal government recognize that demand for paid sex fuels sex trafficking and therefore sex buyers must be held accountable for their role in perpetuating this crime.
In the past year, portions of the JVTA have been implemented, but more can be done to ensure it is being used to its full potential. For instance, the law calls for the creation of a fund to support victims’ services and provide comprehensive anti-trafficking training to law enforcement. The money would come from fines collected from convicted traffickers, child pornographers, sex buyers, and other abusers. However, distribution of this money has been slow. To date, the fund has $5 million that has not been disbursed.
To commemorate the bill’s anniversary—and highlight opportunities for further implementation—Congressman Ted Poe, along with Representatives Beatty, Weber, Yoho, and Jackson Lee, held a special order on the House floor on May 23, reinforcing Congress’ continued resolve to ending trafficking in our nation.
This morning, Representatives sent Attorney General Loretta Lynch a letter asking for specifics on how the Department of Justice plans to enact the bill, especially as it relates to demand reduction. Because, as the letter states:
“Only when we aggressively halt the demand for human trafficking that drives this destructive industry will we be able to eliminate exploitation in our cities and on our streets.”
Reducing the demand for paid sex must be part of any holistic approach to stopping trafficking. It’s simple economics: if there were no buyers, there would be no business. Demand Abolition, through its CEASE Network (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation), is pioneering new tactics for deterring sex buyers, which in turn will reduce the overall presence of sex trafficking in our communities. When the JVTA first passed, Demand Abolition and its partners eagerly awaited how the federal government would include demand-focused tactics into their work. Local law enforcement—that had already prioritized demand reduction—optimistically anticipated increased cooperation with federal agencies. Although we are still waiting, we are encouraged by the newfound vigor this week’s activities have sparked on the Hill.
Personally, I am hopeful that the Department of Justice’s response to Congress’ letter will shed light on new work being done to reduce the demand for domestic trafficking. I expect to see announcements for:
- funding opportunities for support services;
- trainings and technical assistance for local law enforcement, particularly around demand reduction; and
- enhanced partnerships between federal, state, and local law enforcement to make anti-trafficking efforts more efficient.
I know the cities within our CEASE Network welcome the chance to work closer with their federal law enforcement partners on this issue, and our victims’ service partners will benefit from the proper disbursement of these funds.
On behalf of Demand Abolition, I applaud Congresswomen Wagner and Maloney, and the rest of the representatives who signed this letter, for leading the charge. We’re anxious to hear the DOJ’s response and look forward to full implementation of the JVTA, increasing support for domestic trafficking victims and improving law enforcement’s ability to bring traffickers to justice—and, ultimately, ending all human trafficking on US soil.