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Corker Praises Foreign Relations Cmte’s Passage of Anti-Trafficking Legislation

Releases video, op-ed in support of the legislation.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 27, 2015:

WASHINGTON – In an interview today on CNN’s “This Hour,” U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the committee’s unanimous passage ofThe End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 and highlighted END IT’s “Shine a Light on Slavery Day” by joining the movement with a red X on his hand. Corker’s bold, bipartisan legislation would create a powerful effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to help eliminate modern slavery around the globe.

“There are 27 million people all over this world today that are in bondage,” said Corker in the interview. “They are in day labor, and rug manufacturing, or brick kilns, or they are young boys in Ghana that are in the fishing world, or they are in sexual servitude. It’s hard for people to imagine that’s the case, but I’ve seen it firsthand. We have outstanding organizations that are using best practices and yet we haven’t had a central effort to deal with this appropriately. Yesterday, unanimously, we passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a bill that I believe is going to have a transformative effect on us dealing with modern slavery.”

Corker, wearing a red X on his hand and lapel in honor of END IT’s “Shine a Light on Slavery Day” added, “I think you all know that today is END IT day. END IT has done an outstanding job in raising awareness, and now it’s time for us to take action. I’m proud to be the lead sponsor of this bill. Senator Menendez and our entire committee passed it out unanimously, and I think we’re going to do something that will affect millions of people in ensuing years…Anyone who has seen it firsthand would be just inflamed over the fact that it’s a crime of opportunity. People are taking advantage of young people, old people, mothers, daughters, sons, and fathers. And we can do something about it, and we’re getting ready to, and I’m glad that today we’re celebrating the beginning of that effort.”

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 is cosponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

In addition, a number of advocacy groups and faith-based institutions have issued support for the effort including, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), International Justice Mission (IJM), United Way Worldwide, Freedom House, Rotary International, and Circle of Friends, Inc., among others.

Click here for a summary of the legislation and here for the full bill text.

Those interested in Corker’s efforts to end modern slavery can join the conversation online using the hashtags #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement. They also can show support by posting a photo of themselves holding up their hand marked with a red “X”. Example here.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 27, 2015:

WASHINGTON – In an op-ed in The Tennessean today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes about the need for the United States to lead a bold vision to eradicate the insidious practice of modern slavery and his bipartisan legislation, The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which would create a focused effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to address this widespread epidemic.

The Tennessean (Corker Op-ed): We can end human slavery once and for all

By Bob Corker
February 27, 2015

It isn’t often splashed across the front pages or the nightly news. It isn’t something everyone even realizes exists today in the 21st century. But it’s destroying lives and tearing apart families across the globe. It is modern slavery and it is more pervasive than ever in our history.

I believe we can end it.

Despite the fact that slavery and human trafficking are illegal in every corner of the world, they exist in more than 165 countries, including our own, and thrive most where enforcement is weak.

The time has come for the United States, as the beacon of freedom, to lead a bold vision for eradicating this insidious practice that preys on the most innocent among us. But to do that, we need to understand the plight of victims and why this crime goes unpunished in so many places.

Parents desperate to provide for their impoverished family are approached by a person offering to educate their young son. All that is expected of the son in return is a few hours a day working in the local fishing business. The parents accept, hoping this could be the chance for their child to live a better life.

Reality is far different. Instead of going to school, the child is forced to work 17 hours a day under dangerous conditions with limited food. Abused and malnourished, he faces harsh punishment if he tries to escape and is unlikely to ever see his family again.

This is life in the modern slave trade on Ghana’s Lake Volta and just one example of millions of stories playing out across the world.

Rather than holding a schoolbook, children in India are stacking bricks. Rather than sitting in a classroom, young girls in the Philippines are sitting in brothels forced into sexual servitude. And worldwide, men and women hoping only to better the lives of their families are stripped of their passports and trafficked for labor.

More than 27 million people currently are trapped in this multibillion-dollar slave trade industry. These are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, living in slavery today.

According to the nongovernmental organization Free the Slaves, forced sexual servitude accounts for 26 percent of modern slavery and forced labor accounts for 74 percent of victims, 55 percent of which are women and girls.

Over the past year, our office has been working with various agencies, nongovernmental organizations and faith-based institutions to find out how we can be more effective in the fight against modern slavery. Last August, I visited Southeast Asia to get a firsthand look at this issue and meet with brave survivors. Hearing their horror stories challenges every moral fiber in you to find a way to act.

And as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I held hearings this year to shed a light on this issue and examine ways the United States can lead.

We learned that slavery is a crime of opportunity, flourishing where enforcement is lax or nonexistent. The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report found that in the three countries with more than half the world’s enslaved population, there were zero prosecutions for slavery-related crimes in 2013.

Fortunately, efforts to improve local law enforcement have shown dramatic results. In the Philippines city of Cebu, a project overseen by the International Justice Mission observed a 79 percent drop in victims of the illegal child sex trade after a significant number of arrests.

While we are beginning to see some successful methods, what is missing is a collaborative, international initiative to meet this growing challenge head-on and take our efforts to the next level.

This week, I introduced The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, bold, bipartisan legislation that would create a focused effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to eliminate modern slavery worldwide. On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the bill, taking us one step closer to turning awareness into real action.

This legislation would establish the End Slavery Initiative Foundation, a private, nonprofit grant-making institution to verifiably and sustainably reduce modern slavery in the areas where the fund operates. A U.S. investment of $251 million over eight years would help the initiative raise a total of $1.5 billion, of which $500 million would come from other foreign governments and $750 million from private sources. Use of U.S. funds would be restricted until the matching funds have been raised from other countries and the private sector. And results would matter. Projects would be required to meet strict benchmarks, including a 50 percent reduction in slavery within the target populations where the fund operates.

This model is designed to leverage limited foreign aid dollars and galvanize tremendous support and investment from the public sector, philanthropic organizations and the private sector to focus resources responsibly where this crime is most prevalent.

Success abroad also can lead to success at home. Stopping perpetrators of slavery overseas can help prevent them from exporting their crime to the United States. This legislation can also complement other proposals in Congress focused on addressing human trafficking within our country, and I look forward to working with members on those efforts as well.

There are many complex problems facing this country that demand our attention, but perhaps none whose existence threatens the very concept of what it means to live in a free society. Ending modern slavery will not come easy, but we have a moral obligation to try.

Bob Corker is a Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

© 2015 www.tennessean.com. All rights reserved

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 27, 2015:

Senator Shines a Light on Modern Slavery

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released a video, “Together, We Can End It,” to shine a light on modern slavery and highlight bold, bipartisan legislation he introduced this week to combat this growing epidemic around the globe.

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 would create a powerful effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to help eliminate modern slavery around the globe. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

In addition, a number of advocacy groups and faith-based institutions have issued support for the effort including, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), International Justice Mission (IJM), United Way Worldwide, Freedom House, Rotary International, and Circle of Friends, Inc., among others.

Click here for a summary of the legislation and here for the full bill text.

Those interested in Corker’s efforts to end modern slavery can join the conversation online using the hashtags #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement. They also can show support by posting a photo of themselves holding up their hand marked with a red “X”. Example here.

A full transcript of the video follows.

Over 27 million people are enslaved today across the globe.

That’s more than four times the population of my home state of Tennessee.

Modern slavery comes in many forms, and it preys on women and children the most.

Rather than holding a schoolbook, children in India are stacking bricks.

Rather than sitting in a classroom, young girls in the Philippines are sitting in brothels, forced into sexual servitude.

In Ghana, young boys are forced into a life of slavery on fishing boats.

Over 27 million people around the world today.

Daughters. Sons. Mothers. Fathers.

It’s time to shine a light on the problem.

And it’s time to turn awareness into action.

Together, we can end it.

Visit corker.senate.gov to learn more about The End Modern Slavery Initiative.

Corker Files Legislation to End ‘Modern Slavery’

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 24, 2015: 

Legislation to Create Powerful Effort in Concert with the Private Sector and Foreign Governments to Help Eliminate Modern Slavery

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced bold, bipartisan legislation that will create a powerful effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to help eliminate modern slavery around the globe. The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015, also cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would establish a private, non-profit grant-making institution known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation” to reduce forced labor and sexual servitude around the world. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the bill on Thursday.

“Today more than 27 million people, many of them women and children, suffer under forced labor and sexual servitude in over 165 countries around the world, including our own,” said Sen. Bob Corker. “As I have seen firsthand, the stark reality of modern slavery is unconscionable, demanding the United States and civilized world make a commitment to end it for good. Despite the pervasive nature of this horrific practice, modern slavery is a crime of opportunity that thrives where enforcement is weak, so raising the risk of prosecution can achieve significant results. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues and a number of other supportive organizations to introduce a transformative initiative that will work in concert with foreign partners and other private entities to help end slavery worldwide.”

“Human trafficking, in the form of forced labor and sexual exploitation, debt-bondage, involuntary servitude and the sale and exploitation of children – is one of the great moral challenges of our time,” said Sen. Robert Menendez. “We must end modern slavery in all its forms and U.S. leadership is critical in the effort to combat this grave injustice. Democrats and Republicans speak with one voice on this vital issue. I am proud to stand with Chairman Corker and look forward to the speedy passage of this legislation.”

A number of advocacy groups and faith-based institutions have issued support for the effort including, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), International Justice Mission (IJM), United Way Worldwide, Freedom House, Rotary International, and Circle of Friends, Inc., among others.

The introduction of the legislation coincides with the End It Movement’s push this week to raise awareness about modern slavery by encouraging supporters to mark their hands with a red “X”. The “Shine a Light on Slavery Day” will culminate on Friday, February 27.

The act will charter a 501(c)(3) non-profit grant-making foundation in the District of Columbia to be known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation”.

The initiative will fund programs outside the United States that:

  • Contribute to the freeing and sustainable recovery of victims of modern slavery, prevent individuals from being enslaved, and enforce laws to punish individual and corporate perpetrators of modern slavery;
  • Set out clear, defined goals and outcomes that can be empirically measured; and
  • Achieve a measurable 50 percent reduction of modern slavery in targeted populations.

The U.S. contribution of $251 million over eight years will be used to raise a total of $1.5 billion, including $500 million from foreign governments and $750 million from private resources. For the Foundation to receive all of the U.S. government funds authorized, $500 million would need to be obtained from foreign governments and $250 million from the private sector. Projects that fail to meet goals will be suspended or terminated.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Corker has been shining a spotlight on the growing epidemic of slavery and human trafficking and has held two hearings about the issue this year. On February 4, the committee heard testimony from leading non-governmental organizations and slavery victims that elevated the scope of this global problem and offered successful strategies for combating human trafficking. The following week, on February 11, Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, testified on the role of U.S. leadership in international, anti-trafficking efforts. Sewall is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP).

Click here for the bill text and here for a summary of the legislation.

Corker to File ‘Bold, Bipartisan’ Bill to ‘Eliminate’ Human Trafficking

Statement from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Week of February 23, 2015:

This week, Senator Corker will introduce bold, bipartisan legislation to help eliminate slavery and human trafficking around the globe. Follow the conversation online using the hashtags #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement.

Background: Over 27 million people are trapped in the multi-billion dollar modern slave trade industry. Although slavery is illegal in every corner of the world, this crime of opportunity exists in more than 165 countries, including our own, and thrives most where enforcement is weak, whether due to indifference, corruption or lack of resources. While U.S. government agencies and many groups and organizations have taken significant steps toward fighting modern slavery, we need to take our efforts to the next level. But the United States cannot meet this challenge alone, so Senator Corker has introduced bold, bipartisan legislation to create a focused, sustained effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to eliminate sexual and labor human slavery worldwide. This model is designed to leverage limited foreign aid dollars and galvanize tremendous support and investment from the public sector, philanthropic organizations and the private sector to focus resources responsibly where this crime is most prevalent. This effort will complement other legislation focused on improving enforcement within the United States.

Establishing The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation: The legislation, similar to the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy, will authorize a 501(c)(3) non-profit grant-making foundation in the District of Columbia to be known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation” that will fund programs and projects outside the United States that must:

  • Contribute to the freeing and sustainable recovery of victims of modern slavery, prevent individuals from being enslaved, and enforce laws to punish individual and corporate perpetrators of modern slavery.
  • Set clear, defined goals and outcomes that can be empirically measured; and
  • Achieve a measurable 50 percent reduction of modern slavery in targeted populations.

Funding: The initiative will seek to raise $1.5 billion, more than 80 percent of which will come through matching funds from the private sector and foreign governments. Sources of funding are as follows:

  • $251 million in authorized funds from the United States over eight years: $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, followed by authorizations of $35.7 million in FY 2016-2022.
  • $500 million from other foreign governments. (Double the investment of U.S. funds.)
  • $750 million in private funding. (Triple the investment of U.S. funds.)

U.S. funds must be matched by $500 million from foreign governments and $250 million from the private sector. The remaining $500 million will be raised by The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation from additional private sector contributions. The U.S. government will channel diplomatic support and additional resources for law enforcement, rule of law, economic development and training assistance in support of The End Modern Slavery Initiative.

Monitoring and Evaluation: Progress will be tracked against baseline data to achieve a 50 percent reduction in slavery. Projects that fail to meet goals will be suspended or terminated. The bill requires the Foundation to remain focused on achieving a significant reduction in modern slavery within a period of seven years. The Foundation is required to comply with the Government Accountability Office’s mandate to conduct financial audits and program evaluations.

Corker Calls on Congress to Work to ‘End Modern Day Slavery’

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 5, 2015:

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB4Ab3TFENE[/youtube]

WASHINGTON – During a hearing to examine the challenge of modern day slavery today, U.S. SenatorBob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for Congress to “create and lead a vision” to end this deplorable practice world-wide.

“Congress can create and lead a vision to end modern day slavery,” Corker said. “With the U.S. behind it; we can lead; we can solve; we can bring others to the table.”

The committee heard testimony from leading non-governmental organizations and slavery victims that elevated the scope of this global problem and offered successful strategies for combating human trafficking. More than 27 million people around the world are enslaved. Forced labor accounts for 74 percent of victims and forced sexual servitude accounts for 26 percent of victims. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to slavery and human trafficking, accounting for 54 percent of victims. Children under the age of 18 account for 26 percent of victims.

“Number one, slavery is as brutal as ever. Number two, it’s more vast than ever, but thirdly, it’s more stoppable than ever,” said Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission in his testimony before the committee. Haugen emphasized the need to improve local law enforcement as a deterrent to traffickers who thrive in communities that turn a blind eye to their activities.

“We’ve measured trafficking fall off by more than 80 percent and even higher in larger populations when impunity ended,” added Haugen.

Witnesses identified the role of public-private partnerships, especially for leveraging scarce resources and raising awareness of human slavery, as an important priority for policy makers.

“The business of human trafficking is too large to allow fragmentation of efforts, which is why bringing government, business, and civil society together is key,” David Abramowitz of Humanity United said.

Organizations focused on ending modern day slavery have developed reliable methods of measuring their efforts, which allows for greater accountability of public investments devoted to ending slavery.

“We can measure how much sex trafficking, forced labor is actually taking place by infiltrating the criminal networks who are operating and get a baseline. Then you can actually carry out your intervention and measure…at the end whether or not there has actually been…an increase…in enforcement and then a correlated decrease in the actual prevalence of the slavery,” Haugen said.

The committee also heard the compelling stories of James Kofi Annan and Shandra Woworuntu, both trafficking survivors who have dedicated themselves to victims’ advocacy so that others will not fall prey to similar violence and captivity.

“I want to thank you for the courage to be here but also for taking your experiences and using them to help other people,” said Corker in thanking the victims for their testimony. “One of the easier outcomes to produce is to make sure people are more fully aware and that parents understand what is happening in various countries with their young ones; and to understand the tremendous plight of victims who in many cases are not dealt with as victims.”

Testifying at today’s hearing were Gary Haugen, President, International Justice Mission; Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director; Solidarity Center; David Abramowitz, Vice President, Policy and Government Relations, Humanity United; James Kofi Annan, Trafficking Survivor & Founder, Challenging Heights; and Shandra Woworuntu, trafficking survivor.

For complete testimony and archived video footage of the hearing, click here.

Black Pushes for Tougher Human Trafficking Legislation

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; January 26, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) spoke on the House floor to raise awareness of the crisis of human trafficking. As Congressman Black noted in her remarks, human sex trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world, with an estimated 300,000 young Americans at risk of becoming victims. This week, the House will vote on a series of bipartisan bills aimed at ending this crime, including the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act of 2015 and the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015. Congressman Black is an original cosponsor of both items of legislation. A transcript of Rep. Black’s remarks on the House floor are below or click here for a video.

Mister Speaker, for many Americans, the issue of human trafficking is far removed from their daily lives; something that is relegated to foreign countries and history books. But the truth is, human sex trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world – with an estimated 300,000 young Americans at risk of becoming victims.

According to the Department of Justice, those most likely to fall prey to this heartbreaking crime are 12 to 14 year old girls. These young women are someone’s daughters, and we cannot turn a blind eye to their plight.

Last year, I visited End Slavery Tennessee – a nonprofit that works tirelessly to confront trafficking in my state. Their mission is taken from the book of Isaiah: “…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

This week, the House will take meaningful steps to fulfill that vision by taking up a series of bipartisan bills addressing the impact of trafficking. This includes the SAVE Act – legislation I am cosponsoring to go after online advertisers who profit off the sale of these innocent victims.

Mister Speaker, no single act of Congress will stop all acts of trafficking, or bring justice for every victim whose innocence has been stolen by this evil.  But we can’t let our inability to do everything stop us from doing something.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Ketron, Sargent File Bill to Boost Human Trafficking Training for Police

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 16, 2015:

NASHVILLE —  State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) have filed legislation to give law enforcement and other officials more training to identify, investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking in Tennessee.  The bill calls on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to implement courses, which will also include information to help first responders and caseworkers find services to assist victims of the crime.

“We have seen far too many cases of human trafficking in Tennessee,” said Senator Ketron.  “Our state has made great gains in combatting human trafficking, but we still have a lot of work to do.  Training is essential to help us identify and prosecute this crime, as well as assist the victims.”

The General Assembly passed a series of bills addressing human trafficking after a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report showed 78 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders.  A follow-up to the report was released last year which showed that these statistics may be understated because first responders have not been trained to identify the crime.  The original report also included a survey from top law enforcement, caseworkers and court officials who deal with human trafficking cases which revealed that 79% felt that their agencies were not adequately trained to recognize and identify the crime.

“Training law enforcement and other first responders in the identification and recognition of human trafficking victims is a high priority,” added Representative Sargent.  “Unless victims are identified, they cannot be rescued or restored and those who are responsible will continue their criminal operations.  That is why is so important that we have this training in Tennessee to truly address this problem.”

Senate Bill 16 calls for the training courses to be implemented by January 1, 2016 and includes the hiring of four additional TBI special agents.  The legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) who has sponsored numerous bills strengthening Tennessee’s human trafficking laws.

January Marks End of First Year of TN Human Trafficking Task Force Activities

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Human Services; January 9, 2015:

Task Force continues efforts to combat human trafficking

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The state Human Trafficking Task Force is inviting all Tennesseans to join in the recognition of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Sunday, January 11, 2015.

Human trafficking is the illegal trading of human beings for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. It is a multifaceted problem that has no boundaries.

This January marks the end of the first year of activities by the Human Trafficking Task Force, established as required by Public Chapter 464. The Human Trafficking Task Force is comprised of representatives from state agencies, legislators, community leaders, researchers, law enforcement, survivors, and subject matter experts. The task force accomplished much in 2014, including but not limited to: task force member participation in national and international conferences and symposiums focused on human trafficking; consultation with national, state and local experts; and a task force strategic work session.

Tennessee has received much recognition for its efforts. It is only one of very few states to have conducted a statewide study to assess the frequency of human trafficking and developed a plan to address the needs of victims. The state also maintains an “A” rating with Shared Hope International’s Protected Innocence Challenge. This annual report is a comprehensive study of existing state laws whereby every state receives a report card on 41 key legislative components that must be addressed in a state’s laws in order to effectively respond to the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking. .

“We are very excited about the progress Tennessee is making in addressing human trafficking,” said Dr. Raquel Hatter, Tennessee Department of Human Services Commissioner and chair of the Human Trafficking Task Force. “Through solid public-private partnerships, the state has generated momentum that has established Tennessee as a leader in the nation.”

The Human Trafficking Task Force encourages Tennesseans to play a key role in combatting human trafficking by educating themselves and others on its prevalence and learning the warnings signs.

Join the Human Trafficking Task Force and the nation on January 11 by wearing navy blue to show your support in solidarity against human trafficking.

Visit the resources listed below to learn more about human trafficking:

If you suspect an individual may be a victim of human trafficking, contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-55-TNHTH (1-855-558-6484).

TBI Looks to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking

Press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; August 18, 2014: 

NASHVILLE – Today, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officially launched a new outreach to raise awareness of human trafficking in Tennessee.

The campaign, titled “IT Has To Stop,” hopes to increase awareness of human trafficking in Tennessee and beyond. The centerpiece of the campaign, ITHasToStop.com, features information, current research and statistics, video, important contacts, and links for visitors to join nonprofits and other groups in the efforts to curb trafficking in Tennessee. Visitors can also connect with the campaign on designated Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, it’s unacceptable, and it’s a crime in Tennessee,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “We hope TBI’s new public awareness campaign sheds some much-needed light on the issue, so we can increase the number of people who insist it has to stop in our state and beyond.”

Research by The Polaris Project, a national leader in the fight against human trafficking, indicates it to be one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimate the number of children bought and sold in the country for the purpose of sexual exploitation to number at least 100,000. The average age of a trafficking victim is 13.

“Tennessee has recently been recognized for great strides in enacting laws to protect survivors of trafficking,” said Gwyn. “We also have trusted nonprofits on the frontlines of this troubling fight. Now, we hope this new effort is our state’s next step to rally public support and increase awareness of this kind of crime and the way out for those trapped.”

The site is available for review at www.ITHasToStop.com.

Laws to Combat Human Trafficking Take Effect July 1

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; June 27, 2013:

(NASHVILLE, TN), June 27, 2013 — July 1 marks the implementation of a wide variety of new laws in Tennessee as the 2013-2014 fiscal year is set to begin. This includes twelve of the thirteen new laws, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), to combat the growing problem of human trafficking.

Kelsey said the legislation builds on human trafficking laws passed in 2011 and 2012 after a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report spotlighted the problem. The TBI report showed 73 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders. The study also showed that sixty-two counties reported the presence of sex trafficking of minors.

“This is a widespread problem in Tennessee, and is especially disturbing as many victims of human trafficking are children,” said Chairman Kelsey. “The legislation set to take effect on Monday enhances penalties against those who promote or patronize the illegal act, gives more rights to human trafficking victims, updates our laws to help ensure offenders cannot escape prosecution, and provides that this crime is included in the list of gang-related offenses. It also provides for a Task Force to make sure we are combating the problem.”

A 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported, “Gangs are increasingly engaging in non-traditional gang-related crime, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution. Gang involvement in alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution is increasing primarily due to their higher profitability and lower risks of detection and punishment than that of drug and weapons trafficking.”

“Criminal street gangs have embraced human trafficking as a lucrative revenue source,” added Kelsey. “Sex trafficking now rivals narcotic sales as a major source of revenue for many gangs.”

Provisions of the new laws include:

Organized Crime

  • adds trafficking for commercial sex acts to the list of gang-related offenses;
  • adds trafficking for commercial sex acts, promoting prostitution, patronizing prostitution, solicitation of a minor, soliciting the sexual exploitation of a minor and exploitation of a minor by electronic means to the list of criminal acts that can constitute a charge of unlawful debts;

Minors / Victims

  • adds aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, trafficking for commercial sex acts, patronizing prostitution and promoting prostitution, to the list of offenses for which a minor or a law enforcement officer posing as a minor might be solicited;
  • prohibits defendants from using consent as a defense in the cases of solicitation, sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor;
  • prohibits the lack of knowledge of a person’s age as a defense against the charges of patronizing prostitution or soliciting the sexual exploitation of a minor;
  • creates grounds for the termination of parental rights when a parent or guardian is convicted of trafficking for commercial sex acts.
  • allows children who are victims of trafficking for commercial sex acts and patronizing prostitution the opportunity to testify outside of the courtroom by using a two-way closed circuit television;
  • extends the statute of limitations for minor victims from ten to fifteen years after the victim has turned 18 to give victims more time to make that realization;
  • provides defendants or victims of sex trafficking restitution of special damages that include medical- and counseling-related expenses the victim incurred as a result of sex trafficking and other offenses;

Penalties

  • increases the charge of promoting the prostitution of a minor from a Class E felony to a Class A or B felony;
  • creates a new Class D felony offense for promoting travel for prostitution; and

Task Force

  • creates a Human Trafficking Task Force charged with the duty of creating a plan for the prevention of human trafficking within the state.

Rep. Watson to Meet with White House Officials to Detail Human Trafficking Challenges in TN

Press release from the Tennessee House Republican Caucus; November 29, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Study after study shows the United States is facing an epidemic of human trafficking. States like Tennessee, which serve as the intersection for numerous interstate highways and have multiple regional airports, are targeted by the perpetrators of the crime. At the invitation of the Office of the Vice President, one legislator is heading to the White House to tell officials what Tennessee is doing to crack down on the criminal activity.

Representative Eric Watson (R—Cleveland), who chaired the House Judiciary Committee in the 107th General Assembly, has been a leading voice when it comes to equipping law enforcement with the resources needed to combat human trafficking. For his part in the White House meeting with top officials, Watson will detail the challenges facing Tennessee as well as how state and local law enforcement agencies have worked together to stop and prevent trafficking cases from occurring.

Human trafficking, which is also referred to as modern day slavery, is defined in federal statutes as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion.”

“Tennessee, in many ways, is a hotspot for this particularly disturbing form of illegal activity—we’ve got to put a stop to that,” remarked Watson. “I’m hopeful this meeting at the White House will serve as a jumping off point for increased cooperation between all levels of law enforcement so we can do just that.”

A 2011 report on trafficking in Tennessee by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) found:

  • Eighty-five percent of Tennessee counties stated that they have investigated at least one human sex trafficking case over the last 24 months.
  • Seventy-two percent of the total counties in the state reported at least one case of minor human sex trafficking.
  • There were 16 entities that reported an excess of 50 cases and eight reported over 100 cases of minor cases of human sex trafficking.

Since that report, the General Assembly passed tough new laws against human trafficking and the TBI has added a training segment on the subject for officers and agents.

Watson added, “I feel like we are making some real progress, but more has to be done. We’re going to learn about the best practices that are being utilized around the nation at this conference and I intend to bring them back to Tennessee.”

Watson is part of a 25-person contingent meeting with officials. The event takes place on Thursday, December 6th at the White House in Washington, D.C.