On October 1, 2020, Dr. Eleanor Gaetan, Director of Public Policy at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), testified in front of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. The task force, which includes Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Susan Davis (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), and John Katko (R-NY), was holding a virtual roundtable on addressing human trafficking.
In 2019, the National Human Trafficking Hotline saw a 20% increase in reports. The average age of survivors of sex trafficking found in 2019 was 17.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been aware of risks increasing for victims of commercialized sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking and prostitution. With most students now finding themselves in some form of online learning, children and young adults are at increased risk for exploitation with increased screen time and internet use. What’s more, financial impacts of the pandemic take a toll on marginalized communities increasing the risk for vulnerable populations of women and girls of color.
In her testimony before the task force, Dr. Gaetan recalled the history of national legislation to fight human trafficking. With 20+ years of experience in this field and having worked in direct services as well as legislative efforts both nationally and internationally, Dr. Gaetan has a unique and important view from which she is able to inform legislators through her role as Director of Public Policy at NCOSE.
Accordingly, Dr. Gaetan suggested four areas of focus where improvement is needed and Congress can act:
- Acknowledge who is most harmed—Marginal communities, especially women and girls of color;
- Reduce the demand for commercial sex as the only realprimary prevention—Make male sex buyers accountable;
- Stop relying on victims to prosecute sex trafficking cases;
- Don’t let digital platforms off the hook: CDA230 reform is essential.
We are encouraged by the bipartisan interest and support surrounding the issue of sexual exploitation and that people are coming together in defense of those at risk. In these turbulent times, we have hope that all will unite around this cause to protect and prevent sexual abuse and exploitation.
Watch Dr. Gaetan’s full testimony here.