Anti-Trafficking Legislation Signed Into Law at White House Ceremony
Today at the White House, Covenant House President Kevin Ryan attended the signing of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), a bipartisan bill that will allow victims of human trafficking to bring civil claims against website proprietors when they knowingly facilitate criminal conduct, such as buying and selling children for sex online.
The signing by President Trump today follows the U.S. Department of Justice announcement earlier in the week of a federal indictment of Backpage.com’s owners, executives and employees. Backpage.com has been linked to hundreds of reported cases of sex trafficking, including trafficking of children.
“Today’s signing of SESTA, along with the indictment of Backpage, is a one-two punch in the gut to criminals who prey on vulnerable youth overcoming homelessness,” said Ryan. “No longer will trafficking survivors be denied justice from laws that insulate website publishers from accountability even when they knowingly participate in the exploitation of vulnerable young people. This overwhelming support from Washington sends a powerful message to those who exploit young people online that they can no longer act with impunity. And it sends a message to vulnerable trafficking victims that they are not alone in their fight to rebuild their lives.”
Ryan joined with other advocates at the signing of SESTA including Mary Mazzio, director of the film I am Jane Doe, along with Congressional sponsors including Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO.)
Covenant House played a significant role in lobbying for the passage of SESTA, and during the Senate debate in late March, four senators highlighted Covenant House for the organization’s work with trafficked youth.
In the largest-ever combined studies of homeless youth and human trafficking conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University (New Orleans) last year, nearly 1 in 5 of the youth overcoming homelessness who came to Covenant House reported to have been bought, sold and trafficked by the ruthless, well-organized and growing sex industry.
“Hundreds of courageous young people at Covenant House who have lived through this hell described their desperation, some singling out Backpage as the platform that sold them,” said Ryan. “I believe their courage is what led to the passing of SESTA and this historic signing at the White House today. The courage of our young people revealed to the world how children are being forced to suffer.
“I am proud today to stand alongside Mary Mazzio, who put her heart and soul into a documentary that opened so many eyes. And grateful for this show of bipartisan support from our leaders in Washington. We worked together as a movement, with and for young people overcoming homelessness. As a result, we’ve made it more difficult for criminals to buy and sell vulnerable young people. Now the hard work continues to end youth homelessness and exploitation.”
Covenant House President Kevin Ryan is available for interviews about SESTA, the work Covenant House does to prevent the trafficking of young people, and today’s important victory for trafficking victims.