Hi, fellow freedom fighters!
As we continue our work through Reclaimed to empower and mobilize God’s church to redefine a hypersexualized culture, restore men and women victimized by the sex industry, and to reach a world hurt by the abuse of sex all through the power of Jesus Christ, we wanted to provide you with some relevant updates over the last couple of years in the legislative arena and steps you can take to be an advocate.
As we partner with different organizations locally to carry out our mission, it’s encouraging to hear about the changes in the legal landscape that lawmakers, law enforcement, advocates, survivors and grassroots organizations are working on and effectuating. It’s also helpful to understand the legislative process and its impact, as well as identifying opportunities to join in the advocacy movement!
Important Laws to Know
January 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the passage of federal legislation to help combat human trafficking. Known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”), this bipartisan bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton and was a landmark victory for advocates in the human trafficking arena. It has been renewed under every presidential administration since it was passed. This law is the anchor for federal human trafficking legislation in the United States and before this law, human trafficking was not treated as a distinct form of crime. In summary, TVPA protects former, current and future potential trafficking victims, establishes avenues to prosecute its perpetrators and prevents further trafficking.
"(a) PURPOSES.—The purposes of this division are to combat trafficking in persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery whose victims are predominantly women and children, to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims." (Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Section 102)
Since that time, the TVPA has been supplemented by further federal legislation, such as the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 (PSTSFA) and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (JVTA). These two pieces of legislation have strengthened services for victims by establishing a fund to support victim assistance programs and reserving federal grants for child trafficking deterrence programs, as well as requiring additional training for first respondents. The latter likely paved the way for state legislation such as that passed at in Texas last year which now requires medical professionals to complete human trafficking education in order to renew their medical license(s).
The PSTSFA aimed particularly at reducing the incidence of sex trafficking among youth involved in the foster care system by requiring systems to better screen and identify youth who are or are at risk of being trafficked. It also established protocols for locating missing or runaway children and reporting requirements to federal agencies. A further support to the federal focus on human trafficking was established earlier this year when the Trump Administration created a position within the Domestic Policy Council that focuses solely on the issue of human trafficking and online child exploitation. The order also expands prevention education programs, promotes housing opportunities and prioritizes the removal of child sexual abuse material from the internet.
Federal legislation often paves the way for state legislation, and in the years since the TVPA was passed, there has been additional legislative action taken at the state level. The Texas Legislature is composed of a 31-member Senate and 150-member House of Representatives who regularly meet every other year for a maximum of 140 days. The last session (86th) was in 2019. In this session, a variety of laws were passed to increase required human trafficking education for school board members, healthcare practitioners, Department of Transportation employees and Law Enforcement officers.
Further restrictions were passed on massage parlors and criminal laws were strengthened. If you’d like to track or search the original bills, check out the Texas Legislature Online or search the summary. The 87th Texas Legislative Session is set for January 2021.
Our history holds countless examples of citizens who advocated for legislative change in areas from chattel slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, and many more. Many of the positive changes in these areas are a result of their direct efforts. Are you interested in becoming an advocate for legislative change in human trafficking? Here are a few simple ways you can service as an advocate in this arena:
1. Advocate for anti-trafficking policies in your state.
Elected officials keep track of the issues that matter to their constituents. You can call their offices to let them know you'd like to see their support on anti-trafficking bills. It’s important to recognize that you can do this with both your federal and state representatives (and note that arguably more direct community impacts are made at a state level). You can quickly find your representatives and their contact information at both the federal and state level using the “Who Represents Me?” tool. You can also check out organizations like International Justice Mission, Polaris, and Shared Hope International to see which policies currently need support in your state, and add your voice!
2. Support policies that do not treat victims as criminals.
Failure for legislators to do so results in a continued cycle for victims and fails to provide needed services and support. Governments should instead provide survivors with comprehensive services and access to justice. Safe Harbor Laws prevent victims from being prosecuted and provide them with specialized services. You can check out Shared Hope International’s scorecard for your state on this and other relevant human trafficking laws.
3. Advocate for supply chain transparency.
Corporations and government supply chains should be free from human trafficking and slavery, but many of our products are touched by slave laborers throughout the world. Encourage businesses to conduct operations with greater transparency by “voting with your dollars” (i.e., shopping fair trade) or sending them a letter.
4. Raise general awareness about issues that impact sex trafficking.
Continue to research and educate yourself on the root of the issue, as well as the various elements and cultural norms that contribute to the evil that is sex trafficking. Seek out opportunities to speak with those who have been fighting in this arena for years, whether they are trafficking organization leaders, social workers, educators, law enforcement, legislators, or any other number of freedom fighters. Then share what you learn to bring awareness to the issues and needs. Reclaimed has a great collection of resources to help you get started. And of course, if you would like to learn more about how you can get connected through Reclaimed, sign up for our newsletter or register for our next study. We would love to have you join us!
"We must never lose sight of the fact that He is in control and His kingdom does not rely on our government."
5. Above all, continue to pray and seek God’s heart for justice in our world.
Continue to seek God’s vision for justice and restoration in this area. Draw a circle around yourself and identify the habits and heart issues you need to lament, and seek forgiveness and healing from. Remind yourself often that God is sovereign over the nations and their governments (Romans 13:1). While God has provided civic engagement as a useful tool and forum for us to advocate for our neighbor’s well-being and pursue justice, we must never lose sight of the fact that He is in control and His kingdom does not rely on our government. This frees us up to participate in advocacy and other forms of civic engagement to help others and represent our God and Savior in the public arena.
For examples of those who have done this well, see the stories of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah and Paul in the Bible. For more recent examples, read about William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglass, Catherine Booth, and Fannie Lou Hamer, to name a few.
Reclaimed exists to empower and mobilize God’s Church to REDEFINE a hyper-sexualized culture, RESTORE men and women victimized by the sex industry, and to REACH a world hurt by the abuse of sex all through the power of Jesus Christ. Sign up for our next study at reclaimed431.org/events and our newsletter at reclaimed431.org/subscribe.