Human trafficking, a modern-day version of slavery, is a crime prevalent throughout the nation — a widespread epidemic where victims are exploited for sex or labor. The federal government, through the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), has made it a priority to fight human trafficking and provide aid to those who have been victimized.
The OVC, part of the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice (DOJ), assists the subjugated by providing specialized services to address the victims’ needs and punish predators.
DOJ has long enforced criminal laws against involuntary servitude and slavery, but the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) enhanced those efforts. The TVPA increased protections and resources for victims; created new crime types; toughened penalties for trafficking offenses; and expanded the U.S. government’s international activities to prevent victims from being trafficked.
Since 2003, the OVC, with TVPA funding, has supported programs that provide victims with housing, food, medical and dental care; mental health treatment; interpretation and translation services; immigration assistance; literacy education; and job training skills. OVC also provides free, comprehensive legal assistance to victims.
The OVC strives to uphold the intent of the TVPA and its subsequent authorizations to ensure that all victims — regardless of immigration status, gender or form of trafficking — receive support in accessing the services they need to heal.
Human trafficking victims can be of any race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education level or citizenship status. People under age 18 engaged in commercial sex acts are considered victims, regardless of the use of force, fraud or coercion.
Traffickers prey on the poor, the defenseless, those living in unsafe situations or in search of a better life. Victims are lured with false promises and are tempted, or forced, into situations where they are made to work, or held as sex slaves, under deplorable conditions with little or no pay.
Nationwide, the most vulnerable populations include American Indian/Alaska Native communities; lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-questioning individuals; those with disabilities; undocumented immigrants; and runaway or homeless youth.
Just as there is no single type of trafficking victim, perpetrators vary. They range from those engaged in criminal activity, such as pimps and gang members, to those in respectable professions, including diplomats, business owners, labor brokers and farm, factory and company owners.
The OVC, faced with a rising number of new and complex issues for victims — in addition to longstanding challenges — must continue to evolve if it is to build and sustain its scope.
The OVC, faced with a rising number of new and complex issues for victims — in addition to longstanding challenges — must continue to evolve if it is to build and sustain its scope. The Human Trafficking Task Force e-Guide provides practical information on the creation and day-to-day operations of anti-human trafficking task forces, with recent case examples.