Sen. Josh Hawley introduces bill to fight human trafficking in U.S.
COLUMBIA – Sen. Josh Hawley announced in a press release Friday he has introduced a bill that would help document human trafficking in the U.S.
The bill would reform the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005, which mandates that the U.S. Department of Justice conducts "comprehensive research and statistical review and analysis of incidents of trafficking in persons and commercial sex acts."
The Justice Department is supposed to conduct these studies every two years to document human trafficking, but there was only one study in 2009, according to the press release.
"I think people are going to be shocked to learn we haven’t done a comprehensive national study," Hawley said in the press release. "It’s important that we know the scope of the problem, and it’s more than a problem, it’s an epidemic. The first step is getting to the scope of the problem."
Co-chair and founding member of the Stop Human Trafficking Coalition of Central Missouri Nanette Ward supports Hawley's efforts. She said human trafficking, which includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, is the fastest growing and second largest criminal enterprise in the world.
"Victims are in every corner of our community," Ward said. "There are children who are being sold by their parents right out of their home, and there could be a foreign-born individual working on a construction crew helping us build new dorms right here in mid-Missouri."
Ward said the research studies will center around the individuals involved in human trafficking.
"The research that would come with this bill would be focusing on studying the victims – those who are in sex trafficking and also the perpetrators," Ward said.
Ward also said all people should be aware of human trafficking.
"Everyone is at risk," Ward said. "Everyone who is on social media... Everyone who is not paying attention to safety factors – not realizing that there are predators. Parents who are thinking that their kids are doing the right thing – thinking that it’s not going to happen here and not going to happen to my kid."
The coalition provides resources for the community. For more information visit the organization’s website.
For more information on human trafficking, visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s website.