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Hearing on Sex Trafficking Victims held by House Subcommittee

On May 14, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing, “A Pathway to Freedom: Rescue and Refuge for Sex Trafficking Victims.

Chair Chris Smith (R-NJ) stated, “In January of 2000, I received actionable information that eight Ukrainian women were being exploited by sex traffickers in two bars in Montenegro. The women had been lured there with promises of legitimate work, and then forced into prostitution. When informed, I immediately called the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Filip Vujanovic, who personally ordered an immediate raid on the bar. As a result, seven of the eight women were rescued and returned to their families in Ukraine. Tragically, the eighth woman was trafficked to Albania prior to the raid.” Rep. Smith continued, “Unlike drugs or weapons, a human being can be held captive and sold into sexual slavery over and over again. Pornography and the devaluation of women are helping to drive demand.”

“In October of 2014, I joined an undercover sting in Cartagena, Colombia organized by Operation Underground Railroad, in which I and others posed as sex tourists to disrupt trafficking rings in three Colombian cities,” stated Sean D. Reyes, Utah attorney general. He continued, “Specifically, I was enlisted to play the role of a grim and menacing bodyguard (a bit unfairly I might add) and a dual role as translator for the main American buyer. I saw up close the horror and helplessness in the eyes of young girls ages 10-16 after the drugs the traffickers had given them had worn off and they were paraded in front of us like a pet to buy or a dessert to sample.”

The following witnesses also testified during the hearing:

  • Karla Jacinto, survivor of human trafficking and advocate, Commission United vs. Human Trafficking;
  • Rosi Orozco, president, Commission United vs. Human Trafficking; and
  • Timothy Ballard, founder and chief executive officer, Operation Underground Railroad
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