Today U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced legislation to reauthorize a provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA) commissioning a two-part comprehensive federal study on trafficking in persons by the Department of Justice. While the TVPRA had called for biennial comprehensive studies on the issue, the only study ever completed and submitted to Congress was in 2009. Senator Hawley’s legislation, cosponsored by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), would therefore provide the first comprehensive study of trafficking by the federal government in more than a decade.
“Human trafficking is evil. It is modern-day slavery, and it undermines our most basic values as Americans. There is more that Congress can and should do to end this network of violence and oppression in our communities. It begins with gathering comprehensive data so law enforcement, service providers, and legislators can do their jobs and provide victims the help they need.”Senator Hawley
As Attorney General of Missouri, Senator Hawley led the largest human trafficking busts in state history, successfully going after a string of massage parlors in the Springfield-area that served as a front for a sex trafficking ring smuggling victims from Asia. During that time, he also created a first-of-its-kind human trafficking task force to coordinate law enforcement efforts and services for victims. He has made it a priority to continue this work in the U.S. Senate.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and is a shameful scourge on our society. In Tennessee, we know all too well how this tragic crime has infiltrated our communities in both the physical and virtual space. In order to confront human trafficking, we need accurate data that informs both law enforcement and Congress and enables us to eliminate it from Tennessee communities.”Senator Blackburn
“Human trafficking continues to plague communities all across this country, including in my home state of Iowa. We must do more to examine the sources of this sickening form of modern day slavery, and fully eradicate it from our society. By ensuring we have complete, accurate data, I believe we can prevent and protect one more life from being turned upside down by this horrific abuse.”Senator Ernst
More information on the bill can be found below. This legislation is supported by the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), and Collective Liberty.
“The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking supports Senator Hawley's legislation to provide government research to explain the full breadth and scope of the epidemic of human trafficking in the United States. Data from the study will assist our efforts to raise greater awareness of the issue with federal, state and local officials and the American people by providing comprehensive data on the hundreds of thousands, and potentially over a million, victims trapped in the world of sex trafficking in the United States.”Kevin Malone, co-founder and President of the Board at the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking
“Fifteen years ago, we knew too little about human trafficking to conduct a successful human trafficking prevalence study, which Congress first mandated in 2005. Today, I’m confident the Department of Justice is ready to solve this perennial mystery. NCOSE strongly supports Senator Josh Hawley’s bill to conduct a study of sex trafficking and labor trafficking that will trigger improvements in law enforcement protocols, direct service provision, and prevention efforts.”Patrick A. Trueman, president and CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation
“We support Senator Hawley’s bill for an in-depth examination of the most severe forms of trafficking in persons in the United States, especially sex trafficking and illicit commercial sex acts. It is crucial we update our knowledge of the extent of human trafficking in the United States - our own backyard - to better comprehend the dynamics, who the victims are, how to protect people, and most importantly, how to effectively combat this crime and human rights abuse so that it one day ceases to exist.”Rochelle Keyhan, CEO of Collective Liberty
There is too little data on the breadth and scope of trafficking in the United States. This lack of information limits our understanding of the unique characteristics of victims and their trafficking trajectories, and it prevents any meaningful evaluation and research on the effectiveness of government policies to combat trafficking. Section 201 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA) authorized a biennial comprehensive study on the issue, but only one study has ever been completed and submitted to Congress.
While some methodologies exist to estimate the scope of trafficking in persons in the U.S., there is a large void of comprehensive national, regional, and state data. A federally-funded study completed in 2014 by the Urban Institute estimating “the size and structure of the underground commercial sex economy in eight major U.S. cities” was supposed to investigate victim prevalence, but focused instead on the financial gain of traffickers. This was a major missed opportunity. Other studies have examined more narrowly-focused topics, such as victim prevalence or law enforcement processing of cases, but none have been comprehensive, nor have they been instituted as periodic reports or ongoing data collection programs.
Put simply, in the 20 years since the passage of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Congress has failed to adequately fund comprehensive studies on trafficking. Comprehensive data on the issue is needed to help service providers develop programs, to assist legislators in crafting policies to address trafficking, and to bolster law enforcement’s ability to identify and protect victims – and prosecute perpetrators of this heinous crime. To address these knowledge gaps, Senator Josh Hawley is introducing legislation to reauthorize the 2005 TVPRA’s comprehensive two-part federal study on trafficking.
Part 1 focuses on severe forms of trafficking in persons in the United States, including:
- The number and demographic characteristics of victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons;
- The number and demographic characteristics of perpetrators of severe forms of trafficking in persons;
- The estimated number of investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and incarcerations of persons engaged in acts of severe forms of trafficking in persons by states and their political subdivisions.
Part 2 addresses sex trafficking and unlawful commercial sex acts (CSAs) in the United States and shall include, but is not limited to:
- The number and demographic characteristics of perpetrators of sex trafficking and CSAs, including purchasers of commercial sex acts;
- The value in dollars of the commercial sex economy, including the average annual personal income derived from sex trafficking acts;
- The number of investigations, arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations of persons engaged in sex trafficking and unlawful CSAs, including purchasers of commercial sex acts, by states and their political subdivisions, and a description of the differences in the enforcement of laws relating to unlawful CSAs across the United States.