It is estimated that as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery—human trafficking in the sex trade and other forms of servitude. Wednesday, a human trafficking caucus was formed in the Senate to bring attention to the issue. This is the first Human Trafficking Senate Caucus on the Hill.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith first learned about the problem of modern slavery in the world from her 12 year old daughter, Willow. Smith was moved to act and has since been a strong advocate for eliminating modern slavery in the world. She joins Soledad O’Brien on “Starting Point” along with trafficking survivor Minh Dang in support of this caucus. Dang was trafficked at age 10 in the Bay Area of California. She is a graduate student at UC Berkeley.
In 2000, trafficking was made illegal in the United States when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act became law. It was up for reauthorization in 2011 but has not been reauthorized. Smith shares her hopes for the caucus. “I’m hoping that we will attack the TVPA and figure out how to get the TVPA passed,” Smith says. “I’m hoping also that we can create an advisory board, advisory council, of survivors that will assist our government in understanding the nuances of human trafficking.”
An advocate of the TVPA, Dang says, “we’re really urging Congress to pass this so that necessary services can be delivered to victims and survivors.” Dang is a victim of rape and incest by her father since when she was three. Her parents abused her as a child, and sold her as a little girl from when she was 10 to 20 years of age. “So for a decade, on the streets, through brothels, through newspapers, that’s where they were selling me,” Dang says. “I did go to college, and my parents also wanted me to be an upstanding student in order to hide their crimes.”
Smith has been working to create a platform for survivors like Dang. “In order to really understand human trafficking,” Smith says, “we have to give a voice to the victims and survivors.”
Dear Mrs. Smith, I want to thank you from the heart for your work against sex trafficking. I am the Darly that was in the documentary "Rape for Profit" that you viewed. Thank you so much for giving a voice to people who have been trafficked. Thank you for the hope you provide and for being on their side. When I escaped, there was nothing for me. I gutted it out alone. My family still blames me, shames me and treats me like an outcast. It has been very hard! I managed to get my BA. I now have a church family that loves me. But the years following my escape were very desperate for me. The "bad" guys were seeking my out to punish me for leaving and get me back to making them money. My family treated me like a contaigeous disease. It is difficult and practically impossible to escape without help! Not just the physical escape, but the beliefs and emotions......the belief that I deserved all the bad things that happened. The post traumatic stress from having my life in danger every single day. The guilt, the shame, the confusion. I did not know I was still human when I escaped. I was some kind of sub-human in my own eyes. I fit nowhere. From my heart, I thank you for helping the public to know about this problem. Thank you for your work in giving the ones who escape a foot-hold on life again. Thank you so much for your kindness!! Oh please, keep up the good work! Thank Willow, too. I don't feel like I have words to express how meaningful it is that you are giving a voice to people whose voice has been stolen.....their very sense of self and humanity disfigured! You are repairing and giving hope to people whose own families consider them "throw aways". Thank you deeply for erasing a stigma that is so undeserved. Keep up the good work