Every day, communities across the country learn about new, shocking stories of human trafficking. Millions across the country heard the harrowing testimony that led to the conviction of R. Kelly for sex trafficking. Many have likely heard about the case in the evening news that highlighted a sex sting in an affluent area of Texas, which resulted in the arrest of multiple people, including a high school teacher, a youth pastor, a football coach, the director of operations at a large hospital network and a volunteer firefighter—people in positions of trust. These stories only begin to skim the surface of the crisis.
Sex trafficking alone affects hundreds of thousands of victims. When you include all forms of human trafficking, my home state of Texas, as of 2016, has an estimated 313,000 victims. These victims live in every community. They are our neighbors.
We must fight to end human trafficking and, just as important, work to help victims build a new life. Given the magnitude of the crisis, all of us will need to be a part of the solution with the support of a comprehensive federal plan.
Today, many who do escape human trafficking cannot find the support they need to heal and move forward. This is one of the main reasons I started my nonprofit, The Jensen Project—to aid in the fight against sexual violence and sex trafficking by raising awareness and providing important funding and professional resources to organizations with the same mission.
Nonprofit organizations that work to end trafficking and support survivors do incredible work. They provide housing, education, job training and more. But they just don’t have enough resources to meet the demand.
This is where all of us can step up to help. Nonprofit organizations that provide these types of services can partner with organizations serving human trafficking survivors to help more people in a way that is sensitive to survivors’ needs. Our Grant Tank program has provided impact investments to 17 such organizations. Businesses can work with nonprofits in this space to help with job training and jobs. Neighbors and community leaders can volunteer their time, talents and resources at local nonprofits serving survivors.
At the same time, we need a comprehensive federal plan that goes beyond law enforcement. We need a recovery plan that gives survivors hope. We have seen the federal government take important steps on the issue. Over the past 20 years, the federal government has enacted legislation to strengthen laws to prosecute traffickers and invested more resources at the state and local levels to help detect and prevent trafficking. This has led to an 84% increase in the number of people prosecuted for trafficking between 2011 and 2020. At the same time, legislation has sought to protect and support victims of trafficking by providing more resources. Just this past year, the Abolish Trafficking Reauthorization Act of 2022 was signed into law. This bipartisan piece of legislation provides millions of dollars to social service agencies.
While these investments and legislation are crucial, we need a holistic plan that incorporates frontline nonprofit organizations in this space. This means working with nonprofits already serving survivors to develop education and training resources that help more nonprofits meet the needs of survivors. It also means connecting social service agencies with nonprofits to extend their reach and capacity. And it means more funding for nonprofit organizations in this space. I’ve seen firsthand what these organizations can do when they have the right resources and support to build their capacity.
As the number of victims and survivors of human trafficking grows, all of us need to get to work. We need more legislation, like the Abolish Trafficking Reauthorization Act of 2022, albeit focused on partnerships with nonprofits in this space. Only then can we start to chip away at the issue and help survivors.