November 6, 2017

SESTA Gives Senate a Chance to Protect Victims of Online Sex Trafficking

On Wednesday, November 8, the Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to consider the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S. 1693). The legislation would amend section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to protect victims of online sex trafficking.  It is the fervent hope of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation that the Committee will vote out a strong bill, one that will hold accountable all who are knowingly, or with reckless disregard, facilitating sex trafficking of human beings.

Moving forward with this legislation, lawmakers have a simple decision to make. They can either side with the money, power, and influence of some in the tech industry by watering down or abandoning this effort, or they can act expeditiously to protect the vulnerable and often silenced victims of online sex trafficking by passing a strong SESTA.

While a handful of industry leaders like Oracle, the Internet Association and 21st Century Fox are supporting SESTA, many members of the tech industry are using scare tactics to suggest this narrowly tailored legislation will be the end of the Internet as we know it. Their apocalyptic fearmongering is as overblown as it is false. What SESTA threatens is criminal actors that use the Internet to sell human beings for sexual exploitation.

Some tech industry insiders want to convince lawmakers, and especially the public, that existing law is adequately protecting victims of online sex trafficking from current and continued sexual exploitation. Tell that to Yvonne Ambrose, whose 16-year-old daughter, Desiree, was murdered while being exploited and sold for sexual exploitation on Backpage, the industry leader in online sex trafficking of minors.

This legislative effort puts the character of the Senate to the test in a way few other issues do. They can choose to side the with the powerful tech lobby, or they can choose to side with victims and their loved ones, who will be the first to tell you current law is not enough to fight our modern day slavery—online sex trafficking.

Lisa L. Thompson

Vice President of Research and Education

Lisa L. Thompson serves as the Vice President of Research and Education for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, where she oversees NCOSE’s strategic planning for increased public understanding of sexual exploitation related issues. To this end Lisa conducts analysis, develops research initiatives, and liaises with a wide-range of public officials, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher learning, and academics to generate collaborative action to combat the full spectrum of sexual exploitation especially as pertains to the harms of pornography, stripping, prostitution, and sexual trafficking.

Lisa joins the NCOSE following nearly two years with World Hope International (WHI), where as its Director of Anti-Trafficking, Lisa administered WHI’s anti-trafficking and sexual-violence recovery programs in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Liberia and Sierra Leone. While working for WHI Lisa also served as a steering committee member of the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST), a collaboration initiative she helped found, and as a reviewer for the Journal of Human Trafficking.

She has written on the subjects of sexual trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation for publications such as Christian History and Biography, Caring, Mutuality, PRISM, and Social Work and Christianity. Lisa is a contributing author to Hands that Heal: International Curriculum for Caregivers of Trafficking Survivors, as well as the book Global Perspectives on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:  Europe Latin America, North America, and Global in which she contributed chapters about the use of torture by pimps, as well as the policy conflicts between sex trafficking abolitionists and HIV/AIDS advocates. She is the co-editor of a special anti-trafficking edition of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work journal Social Work & Christianity and has provided expert testimony to the U.S. Congress. Lisa routinely speaks about sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (i.e. prostitution, pornography, stripping), and facilitates anti-trafficking training events for a diverse range of audiences.

Additionally, Lisa served for more than 12 years as the Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking for The Salvation Army USA National Headquarters. In that role she pioneered strategies for The Salvation Army to create recovery services for survivors of sexual trafficking and advocated on public policy issues and initiatives related to combating sexual trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. Lisa chaired The Salvation Army’s North American Anti-Trafficking Council and directed its Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking. Previous to her arrival at The Salvation Army, Lisa served as Policy Representative for the National Association of Evangelicals’ (NAE) Office for Governmental Affairs in Washington, DC, from 1998 to 2001. While there, she was heavily involved in NAE’s advocacy efforts seeking passage of legislation now known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. She has also worked for consulting firms managing Community Develop Block Grants programs in Kentucky, and taught English as a second language in the People’s Republic of China.

Lisa earned her Bachelor of Arts in Government from Western Kentucky University, and her Master’s degree in Leadership, Public Policy and Social Issues from Union Institute and University.

Further Reading

Related