Washington, D.C. – Today, an amendment introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to ensure that child victims of sex trafficking are eligible to receive victim services was successfully adopted as part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S.47), which is expected to pass the Senate this week.  Portman and Blumenthal are co-chairs of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking.

“When the unthinkable happens, we must do everything possible to help our nation’s children when they are subjected to violence,” said Portman.  “By affording child victims of sex trafficking the same resources and tools to cope with devastating trauma as youth victims of other types of assault are provided, this amendment will further protect the defenseless.”

“Sex trafficking of children is a heinous crime – often invisible and unknown but always unspeakably cruel and brutal,” said Blumenthal.  “This bipartisan amendment ensures that young victims of sex trafficking have access to lifesaving services currently provided by VAWA to others.” 

According to the FBI, there are currently an estimated 293,000 American youth at risk of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.[1]  Moreover, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reports that between 2008-2010, 83 percent of sex trafficking victims found within the U.S. were U.S. citizens, and 40 percent of those cases involved the sexual exploitation of children.[2]  One reason we lack data as to the definitive numbers of victims is that there are limited resources and programs available to serve these children nationwide.

The 2012 Human Trafficking Commission Report surveyed more than 300 Ohio youth victims of sex trafficking.  The report found that 40 percent were also victims of sexual abuse.  Forty-seven percent of victims surveyed confirmed that they had been raped more than a year before being trafficked.  

In June 2012, the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force developed policy recommendations for the state to improve how the state prevents and responds to human trafficking.  Many of the recommendations centered on strengthening services available for youth victims of sex trafficking, including recommendations to help victims of trafficking by making human trafficking services and treatment a priority and coordinating efforts to identify a statewide provider network that will serve as the first response system for minor human trafficking victims.  Portman and Blumenthal’s amendment is a step toward adopting these recommendations as we address child victims of sex trafficking under VAWA.

Section 302 of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 is entitled “Creating Hope through Outreach, Option, Services, and Education for Children and Youth.”  This section authorizes grants to enhance the safety of youth and children who are victims of, or exposed to, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 

Portman and Blumenthal’s amendment adds “sex trafficking” as a criterion for victims services in Section 302 and will help ensure that child victims of sex trafficking receive essential services just as those afforded to child victims of "domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking" in this section.

The amendment is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).