Partner, Hunton Andrews Kurth, Washington, DC
Board Chair, The Human Trafficking Legal Center
It’s really important to help eliminate this scourge of human trafficking. Most important is to give survivors a sense of justice and power, because people who are trafficked are among the least powerful among us. That’s what leads them into these often-desperate situations: They’re trying to better themselves, better their families, and they end up being exploited by traffickers.
That’s just wrong. And the United States should not allow that to happen. The people I see are trafficked into the United States, sometimes trafficked within the United States, for the purpose of working for little pay under exploitive conditions. For them to find someone who really believes in them and can help them get back some of their dignity and self-esteem—I think there’s really nothing more powerful than that.
A lot of people don’t understand that the vast majority of people who are trafficked are trafficked for forced labor. That could be somebody that’s down the street from where you live.
Often the traffickers go free and their victims—the survivors—pay the price. They may be arrested or live in perpetual fear that someone will come after them for speaking the truth.
A milestone was the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which allows for recovery of damages against traffickers. Sitting down with someone and saying, you can sue, we can get a judgment against these people—that is a concept, a sense of power and possibility, that they’ve never considered. They’ve never had the luxury of considering.
There’s something unique about sitting down with someone face to face, someone who has been terribly hurt and exploited, and supporting them in achieving an independent life.