Congress and DOJ: A better response to domestic trafficking is needed

Posted by on June 29, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Jill Steinberg, Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the work the federal government has done to combat sex trafficking in the US

Jill Steinberg, Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the work the federal government has done to combat sex trafficking in the US

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a special hearing yesterday for an update on how the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act is being implemented and to discuss ways to make it more effective. The hearing focused on reinforcing the Senate’s commitment to supporting domestic victims of sex trafficking.

Demand Abolition’s Policy Manager Ian Kitterman attended the session and reports that witnesses from the Department of Justice spent the morning re-affirming the agency’s commitment to implementing all aspects of the JVTA, including the mandate that those who buy trafficking victims should be held as legally accountable as the exploiters who sell them.

Jill Steinberg, Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, shared that both the administration and Congress agree that anti-trafficking efforts need to be all encompassing, which means prosecuting traffickers and sex buyers alike. She said:

The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting all of those involved in human trafficking, including the customers who fuel the demand for commercial sex involving trafficking victims.”  

Other notable moments:

  • Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) repeatedly pointed out that demand drives sex trafficking and asked several questions about what the DOJ is doing to target buyers.
  • DOJ representatives described FBI courses currently being taught to federal agents and state law enforcement that pro-actively trains them on demand reduction.
  • Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) inquired about increasing the victims’ services fund created by the JVTA, indicating there might be support for more federal funding to help trafficking survivors.

The Judiciary Committee meeting shows that the desire to combat domestic trafficking through victim support and increased buyer accountability is gaining momentum in the US. And while there’s still much work to be done, the Department of Justice is committed to implementing the JVTA to the fullest by actively pursuing both traffickers and buyers.

Gretta L. Goodwin, Ph.D., Acting Director for Justice and Law Enforcement Issues Homeland speaks at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the JVTA

Gretta L. Goodwin, Ph.D., Acting Director for Justice and Law Enforcement Issues at the Department of Homeland Security, speaks at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the JVTA

How can I help?

If you share our belief that trafficking victims need increased support and that their exploiters must be held more accountable, please contact your representative/senator and let them know you support all efforts to strengthen the JVTA so that the administration continues prioritizing its implementation.