Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman GOODLATTE for the time and also his work on this issue of human sex trafficking in the United States. I support this legislation. I also compliment Congresswoman WAGNER, Congresswoman BASS, Congresswoman MALONEY, and Congresswoman SHEILA JACKSON LEE and other women.
I mention that because when we presented the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act 2 years ago and worked on that massive legislation that is excellent legislation, I am convinced that it was the women in the United States House of Representatives who got it done. They made sure that this legislation passed, and then they trotted down the hallway to the Senate and—I will use the word—‘‘encouraged’’ our Senators to take the bill up, and it passed there, and President Obama did sign the legislation. I am convinced there is nothing more powerful than a woman who has made up her mind, and the women in this House made up their mind about human sex trafficking. I just wanted to point that out.
This legislation is important. There are many stories. I am going to talk about a 9-year-old girl who lived not far from where we are today here in the United States Capitol. When Ashley’s mother died, she was left alone. Like any lost and lonely child, she sought the comfort that she needed of love and safety. A woman came in to Ashley’s life, offering her the care that Ashley was looking for as a 9-year-old: comfort and love. Ashley felt like she was safe for the first time since she had lost her mother.
She was an orphan in Washington, D.C. Little did she know that the woman who was being nice to her was faking it all because she was grooming Ashley to be a sex slave here in Washington. You see, traffickers exploit the vulnerabilities of victims, destroying their self-worth and their hope for a better life. In some cases, traffickers steal the soul of young children.
They have no hope and they have no selfworth. That happened to Ashley, this 9-yearold girl. She was trafficked on the streets of Washington, D.C., and online for 5 years. At 16, a peace officer here in Washington, D.C., arrested her for prostitution. She was brought before a judge, and the judge recognized that she was not a criminal, she was not guilty of prostitution. Children cannot commit the crime of prostitution. He recognized her plight and he ordered her into a treatment program to help her recover from being a trafficking victim. It is my opinion that that judge saved Ashley’s life.
As was mentioned here on the House floor by Congresswoman BASS, the average age of a trafficking victim here in the United States of America is between 12 and 13. That means some girls are younger, like Ashley. She was 9. What a statistic. And, yes, it is mostly young minor females. Boys are trafficked.
Adult females are trafficked as well, but the scourge is the biggest when it is our children. Like the laws of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, they have increased judge and prosecutor training, giving them tools to deal with the scourge of human trafficking. It is nothing more than modern sex slavery. That is what human trafficking is.
Congresswoman WAGNER’s Put Trafficking Victims First Act continues to improve the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and improve the process by encouraging more training and a focus on victim-centered approaches in the courtroom. I was a judge for 22 years in Houston. We had none of this legislation to help rescue and restore victims of trafficking, and now we do.
We should remember that in our country we treat trafficking victims, like Ashley, like victims and make survivors out of them. Gone are the days that we are going to treat them like criminals. They are not criminals. They are victims of crime.
We must stop the sale of children on the marketplace of sex slavery. This legislation helps do that. Victims like Ashley deserve treatment and care, and I support the work that has been done in the Put Trafficking Victims First Act, and I support the fact that it will help victims. As co-chair of the Victims’ Rights Caucus, along with the gentleman from California (Mr. COSTA), we understand the importance of victims and we understand the importance of this legislation.
No more, Mr. Speaker. Not in our city, not in our States, and not in our country.
And that is just the way it is.