Campus Sex Crime Victims, Battered Immigrants and Victims of Violence Against Women will find Power and Protection in Legislation Authored by Veteran Legislator Congressman Chris Smith
NEW JERSEY: October 28th marks 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000—the comprehensive, historic law authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to aggressively combat sex and labor trafficking both within the United States and around the world.
In a recent interview with LegisLEADERS, Congressman Smith discussed the issues and the tremendous impact the law has had and the work still to be done. Smith’s office issued a news release highlighting the law – and related legislation – already successful in prosecuting and jailing thousands of human traffickers including all charges in 2019 against Jeffrey Epstein and the infamous sex trafficking ring convictions involving NXIVM’s Keith Raniere and Smallville actress Allison Mack.
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Notably, the TVPA included a number of “sea change” criminal code reforms including treating as a victim—and not a perpetrator of a crime—anyone exploited by a commercial sex act who had not attained the age of 18 and anyone older where there was an element of force, fraud or coercion.
The TVPA radically reformed the U.S. criminal code to authorize asset confiscation and jail sentences of up to life imprisonment for the predators.
Watch part of the interview here:
Smith said that because of the TVPA, “many victims have been rescued and protected while comprehensive prevention strategies have spared many from the exploitation and abuse of the crime that treats women and children as mere commodities to be bought and sold.”
Of significance, Smith’s law also included the Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act, the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act and reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)—doubling VAWA funding to $3.3 billion over five years for women’s shelters, rehab programs, housing and other initiatives for battered and abused women.
Over the years, Smith authored four additional laws to combat human trafficking—including in 2003, 2005, 2016, and 2019.
The Act also included sheltering and a national hotline, and on the refugee side, created a new asylum category—the T visa—to protect victims and their families.
Among its many other provisions, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act also created the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and annual TIP reports with its tier grading of every nation’s record in making “serious and sustained efforts” to eliminate human trafficking. Those relegated to what is called Tier 3—egregious violators—are subject to sanctions.
In 2019, President Trump signed Smith’s fifth comprehensive anti-human trafficking bill into law— The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act—which for the first time ever authorized federal grants to local educational agencies to educate school staff to recognize and respond to signs of sex and labor trafficking and provide age-appropriate information to students on how to avoid becoming victims.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) one in four trafficking victims are children and more than 40 million individuals of all ages are living in slavery worldwide.
Smith noted that some of today’s challenges, such as how ever-evolving technology is being utilized by predators to lure children into trafficking, could not have been anticipated 20 years ago
Smith noted that due to COVID-19 restrictions, “young people are spending more time online and evidence suggests a huge spike in predators’ access to children on the internet and the rise of online grooming and sexual exploitation while children are isolated and ‘virtually’connected to the world.”
Smith added, “Twenty years after the TVPA became law, the nefarious trade in women and children—modern-day slavery—has become more visible and a more urgent priority for law enforcement on all levels.”
“Much remains to be done to protect victims, prosecute traffickers and prevent human trafficking”, Smith said.