On October 21, SHI President and Founder Linda Smith testified before the Subcommittee on Foreign Relations to represent hundreds of thousands of silent voices across the world. These voices are unheard because they belong to bodies that are abused multiple times a day for months or years at a time. Each year, millions of women and girls are enslaved into sex trafficking within their own borders or smuggled across one or multiple borders for sexual exploitation. These voices are the victims of sex trafficking, crying out from every nation around the globe.
Linda joined the Honorable Janice D. Schakowsky (U.S. House of Representatives), the Honorable Melanne Verveer (Ambassador-at-Large Office of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State), Ms. Mallika Dutt (Founder and Executive Director of Breakthrough) and Ms. Nicole Kidman (actress and UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador to Congress to raise concern for the abuse and mistreatment of women around the world.
The hearing wasn’t your usual meeting on human rights: five women stood before the United States Congress standing proud before Congress to seriously consider the laws, including the enforcement of those laws that keep thousands of women locked in captivity and exploitation through forms of domestic violence. As Melanne Verveer said, quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “You cannot have vibrant civil societies if half the population is left behind.”
Linda Smith goes (back) to Congress, encouraging lawmakers to properly address child sex trafficking in the United States before taking the battle abroad!
Though the primary focus of the hearing was to discuss international violence against women, Linda boldly asked Congress members how the United States can claim to be a leader and set international standards for the treatment and protection of women when 100,000 children in the United States are forced to perform commercial sex acts each year within our own borders.
Linda’s remarks were well received from Republican and Democrat members alike. Several members of Congress, including Congressman Poe and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Congressman Delahunt agreed with Linda on the importance of addressing the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking. In addition, Congressman Rohrabacher stated that we must impose sanctions and take action when nations don’t comply with legislation that involves violence against women, or when grave abuses against women are taking place.
Linda’s testimony in Congress was a historic day for Shared Hope International. Not only did Linda remind Congress to prioritize U.S. efforts to fight sex trafficking within their borders, she also requested that the DEMAND and National Reports be added to the Congressional Record! Approved immediately by Congressman Delahunt, we are proud to say that two of Shared Hope’s reports are now recognized by U.S. Congress.
Many thanks to the supporters who waited patiently in line and packed the hearing room to support Linda’s message. Your presence served as an unwavering voice for the thousands of women and children whose bondage denies them the opportunity to speak against the crimes committed against them. Read the National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking to learn more about sex trafficking in the United States.