The enactment of Senator Portman’s bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) was a big victory for trafficking victims and survivors who for too long have been denied the opportunity to get the justice they deserve.  The measure was the culmination of a three-year effort – which included a victory at the Supreme Court – to hold accountable Backpage.com and other websites that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking of women and children.  The nearly two-year investigation by Portman’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) culminated in a stunning report which detailed how Backpage facilitated criminal sex trafficking and then covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board praised Portman’s work on the measure, saying: 

“Passage of the law is a big and hard fought victory for Portman and for the victims and survivors of online sex trafficking.” 

As founder and co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, Portman has a long record of delivering results in the effort to fight this horrific crime. He has authored six federal anti-trafficking laws signed by Presidents Obama and Trump, each designed to make a real difference in better serving victims and helping law enforcement to combat this horrific crime. Here are the six laws: 

  • Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA; enacted in April 2018) is designed to help deliver justice to victims of sex trafficking and ensure that websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking can be held liable and brought to justice.
  • Bringing Missing Children Home Act (enacted May 2015) requires law enforcement to include a photograph in every missing child report, and update the records of missing children with other information relevant to the investigation within 30 days (previously 60 days).
  • Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act (enacted May 2015) requires law enforcement and child welfare workers to notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children immediately when a child goes missing from care. It also amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to ensure that child victims of sex trafficking are considered victims of child abuse, not criminals. CAPTA state plans must also contain provisions and procedures requiring identification and assessment of all reports involving children known or suspected to be victims of sex trafficking, training for child protective services workers to identify and provide comprehensive services for victims, and a description of efforts to coordinate with state law enforcement, juvenile justice, and social service agencies such as runaway and homeless youth shelters.
  • Combat Human Trafficking Act (enacted May 2015) improves training on the investigation and prosecution of those who purchase sex from minors. This law expands state and federal wiretapping authority in human trafficking investigations, increases penalties, and holds both sellers and buyers of sex strictly liable in order to strengthen the rights of victims.
  • End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act (enacted December 2012) requires federal contractors to implement trafficking prevention programs and strengthens oversight and investigation of trafficking reports to eliminate trafficking on federal grants and contracts. This law enhances prevention, accountability, and enforcement with regard to labor abuses by government contractors.
  • Child Sex Trafficking Amendment Signed Into Law as Part of Violence Against Women Act (enacted March 2013) establishes that child victims of sex trafficking are eligible to receive help under Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants.

Portman meets regularly advocates, law enforcement, and victims in Ohio as part of his efforts to combat this horrific crime.  In addition, Portman has worked to expose the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) failure to put in place policies to protect migrant children that were turned over to a human trafficking ring.  A follow-up hearing on this issue is scheduled for Thursday.

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