By HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, but slavery through the dehumanizing practice of human trafficking is still with us.
Human trafficking is very real, and it affects vulnerable people in rural and urban areas across our country. The victims are young children, boys and girls, women and men, runaways, and new immigrant communities. They are victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, involuntary servitude and forced labor, and they come from a broad range of socioeconomic groups.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to ensuring that all victims of human trafficking have access to services to escape exploitation and rebuild their lives. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), HHS plays a key role in the fight against human trafficking and helping an increasing number of victims each year. Over the last decade, HHS has equipped victims, survivors, and communities with tools that will help them to respond to human trafficking. One of those tools is the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a national, toll-free hotline that takes calls and texts from anywhere in the country. In 2012, the Center received 20,651 calls from victims and communities seeking help, a 74 percent increase since 2010. In 2012, the Center received almost 1,400 calls directly from victims, an 82 percent increase over just one year. As of last week, victims can now text BeFree (233733) for help.
Our private and public partnerships are critical to this fight against trafficking. This morning at the White House, both private and public partners gathered to better coordinate our work on behalf of human trafficking victims. Today’s event included a summit to discuss innovative ways technology can connect us with victims of human trafficking. The President’s Advisory Council of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is working on recommendations on building partnerships to eradicate modern-day slavery, and we are bridging efforts within the department to comprehensively address victims’ health and human service needs.
Now, for the first time in more than a decade, the federal government has created a coordinated Strategic Action Plan to strengthen services to victims of human trafficking in the United States. Together with the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, we are co-chairing this process and working with partner agencies of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
We released the proposed Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States this morning to the public for comment. Public comments, due within 45 days, will inform our efforts to strengthen collaboration and efficiency across the government as we finalize and implement the plan.
Human trafficking is wrong. It is illegal. Join us in the fight for dignity for some of the most vulnerable among us.
For more information about HHS’ role and efforts in the fight against human trafficking, please visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/endtrafficking.