The Senate today approved U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s, D-Ore., provisions aimed at ending domestic sex trafficking of minors as part of an amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA).
Key provisions from Wyden’s Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act were included as part of an amendment by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to incorporate the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) as part of VAWA. Wyden’s provisions authorize a pilot program to create comprehensive residential care facilities throughout the country to provide safe havens for minors who are victims of domestic sex trafficking. The pilot program also ensures specialized training of law enforcement officers and social service providers in identifying and serving these victims.
The Wyden-authored provisions also provide law enforcement with new tools to investigate and incarcerate the pimps and traffickers who force young women and girls into prostitution.
“Young women and girls are being bought and sold into sexual slavery and this has to stop now,” Wyden said. “Using a comprehensive approach, these important provisions will help bring some new resources needed to break the cycle of exploitation. It will also help put more traffickers where they belong – behind bars.”
The provisions included in VAWA would create a pilot block grant program for four areas of the country hardest hit by sex trafficking. The grants would be used to create a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to combat sex trafficking of minors. Each block grant would be for $1.5 to $2 million per year for up to four years. The block grants could fund:
• Housing for child victims of sex trafficking;
• Clothing and other daily needs in order to keep victims from returning to the street;
• Mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, and case management;
• Victims’ assistance counseling and legal services;
• Education or job training classes for victims;
• Outreach, education, and deterrence/prevention efforts; and,
• Education and training for law enforcement personnel on how to investigate crimes involving the sex trafficking of minors who are United States citizens or aliens admitted for permanent residence, including how to identify minor victims of sex trafficking.
To qualify communities would have to demonstrate significant sex trafficking activity; cooperation and coordination between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and social service providers; and, a workable plan to provide comprehensive, wrap-around services to victims including a shelter, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and case management.
The Senate voted 78-22 to reauthorize the VAWA, and the bill now goes to the House. During the 112th Congress, both the House and Senate passed their respective versions of the bill but neither chamber took up the other’s version.
VAWA was originally enacted in 1994 in an effort to foster awareness of domestic violence, improve services and provisions for victims, and revise the manner in which the criminal justice system responds to domestic violence.