Sen. Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, this week commended the University of Toledo on the opening of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, which will serve as an on-campus home for research on human trafficking.

Last week, Portman announced that the Senate passed two of his bills to combat human trafficking, the Bringing Missing Children Home Act and the Ensuring a Better Response for Victims of Child Sex Trafficking. The Senate also passed key provisions of his Combat Human Trafficking Act. These passed the Senate as part of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a bipartisan and comprehensive trafficking bill introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).

“Human trafficking is a heinous crime, and UT is leading the way to find better ways to protect the vulnerable among us,” Portman said.

“It’s critical that we’re working together on all levels of government, as well as in our local communities, to address this issue. I was pleased last week when my measures allowing us to improve the way we find missing children, strengthen the prosecution against buyers of sex acts from trafficking victims, rightly define victims of child sex trafficking as victims of child abuse and ensure that children who are sex trafficked or sexually exploited are treated as victims, not criminals, passed the Senate, but there is more work to be done. I commend UT on their important work and look forward to continuing my efforts with the Toledo community to end this form of modern-day slavery.”

Portman spoke in support of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act on the Senate floor last week. Video can be found here.

The Bringing Missing Children Home Act is bipartisan legislation Portman introduced with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to improve the way we find missing kids by refining and streamlining how cases of missing children are handled and enhancing the critical information needed for law enforcement to investigate cases of missing and abducted children.

Specifically, for the first time ever, law enforcement will be required to add a photograph to the missing child’s file if available. Portman’s bill also replaces the term “child prostitution” with “child sex trafficking,” reinforcing that children who are sex trafficked or sexually exploited are victims, not criminals, and making it clear that we must save these children from abuse.

The Combat Human Trafficking Act is bipartisan legislation Portman introduced with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to strengthen law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute all who commit sex trafficking crimes, particularly the buyers of sex acts from trafficking victims. Enforcement efforts often focus on prosecuting the sellers of these acts because of challenges in prosecuting buyers.

Portman’s legislation sends a clear message to those who victimize children that we will prosecute them to the full extent of the law. By strengthening laws against buyers, we can take steps toward reducing demand for child victims and ensuring criminals are fully prosecuted.

Ensuring a Better Response for Victims of Child Sex Trafficking was originally part of the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act, bipartisan legislation Portman introduced with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to require that child victims of sex trafficking are considered victims of child abuse. Under the amendment, CAPTA state plans must also contain provisions and procedures requiring identification and assessment of all reports involving children known or suspected to be victims of sex trafficking, training for child protective services workers to identify and provide comprehensive services victims and a description of efforts to coordinate with state law enforcement, juvenile justice, and social service agencies such as runaway and homeless youth shelters to better serve victims of sex trafficking.

These bills follow up on Portman’s extensive efforts to combat human trafficking. Last year, Portman’s provisions to protect children from violent criminals were signed into law as part of the Child Care Development Block Grant. Additionally, key provisions of Portman’s Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act, which requires state child welfare workers to identify and document victims of sex trafficking within the child welfare system, were signed into law last year. In December 2012, Portman’s bill to strengthen protections against trafficking in connection with overseas federal contracts, the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act, was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Bill.