Murkowski, Smith Introduce Bill to Protect Children from Human Trafficking

Grants to Equip Individuals to Prevent & Respond to Child and Youth Exploitation

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Tina Smith reintroduced legislation to help students, parents, teachers, and school personnel to understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to signs of human trafficking—the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2021. The legislation would provide grants to non-profit organizations and schools to develop and implement age-appropriate, culturally competent, and gender-responsive curriculum, all while prioritizing geographic areas with the highest prevalence of human trafficking.

Click here for the legislative text.

Click here for a one-pager on the bill.

“Human trafficking is one of the most sickening and horrifying crimes out there. It’s shocking, but many locations that most would assume to be safe — such as playgrounds, local malls, and group homes — have become stalking grounds for predators to prey on youth.  We must ensure that school faculty members, teachers, parents, youth development personal, and children are equipped not only to prevent human trafficking, but also to see the warning signs and to be ready to respond,” said Senator Murkowski. “There is substantial need in Alaska and throughout the country for tools and resources to be put in place to fight back against these heinous acts.”

“Human trafficking is a serious issue in Minnesota—particularly for Native communities—that demands urgent action,” said Senator Smith. “Since children spend a significant portion of their time at school, it just makes sense to teach students, teachers and other school personnel how to recognize and respond to signs of human trafficking and child exploitation. My hope is that this legislation will improve community awareness about these egregious crimes and keep children safe.”

“ASHTA (Alaska Stop Human Trafficking Alliance) fully endorses Senator Murkowski’s and Senator Smith’s efforts with the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2021.  Preventive education is key in combatting human trafficking nationwide.  Teaching our youth about the dangers of sex trafficking and how to recognize when they are being groomed, they can save themselves, and can save others. As leaders in the frontline fight against sex trafficking here in Alaska, from our cities to our villages, we strongly believe that education is key in winning this war and keeping our youth safe,” said Staci Yates, ASHTA Coordinator and Director of Human Trafficking Recovery Services at My House.

“At Catholic Social Services (CSS), we have borne witness to the impact of trauma on young children, adults, and families. Human trafficking and exploitation are horrendous acts that cause extreme trauma. The proposed expanded training eligibility to include afterschool and youth development personal is necessary to prevent this crisis. All professionals interacting with children should be equipped to step in and prevent a child from hurt… This legislation will help prevent children and youth from experiencing extreme trauma, one that will have far reaching effects - a trauma that no child or person should ever have to experience,” said Lisa Aquino, CEO, Catholic Social Services of Alaska.

“Education and awareness are the keys to a frontline defense against exploitation of our children and youth. As the world around us changes and advances in technology surpass our ability to keep up, we must make sure that our schools and communities are equipped to advance in protective measures and safety training, because traffickers and those who prey on vulnerable people are working just as hard to use these advances and new tactics to their own benefit. Many of our clients at Priceless have shared that their lives would have been much different if they had only recognized sooner the dangers of the interactions they were having and the grooming techniques traffickers used on them. Internet safety, healthy dialogue about online interactions, and reinforcing youth to use their voices to speak up when something looks or sounds wrong… it really does start with the opportunity to educate parents, students, and all care givers. It takes people who are resourced and dedicated in doing the hard work of staying ahead of trafficking trends so that our families, schools, and communities are safe places again. This bill will create much-needed resources to equip and educate, and ultimately help us move from a defensive strategy of fighting trafficking to an offensive one with aware and prepared populations,” said Gwen Adams, Executive Director, Priceless Alaska.

“Youth Advocates of Sitka has been actively combating the injustice of our youth trafficking victims and the impact it has on the families. The vulnerable margin that is susceptible to become prey of human trafficking will benefit immensely from the prevention aspect and purpose of this companion legislation. Our agency is committed to the prevention, awareness, and service elements to end Human Trafficking and Exploitation and to successfully meet this endeavor training and awareness is imperative. The Southeast regions biggest deficit, at this point, in the fight against Human Trafficking, is the consciousness and preventative components not only for the victims, but also for the family, friends, and community members this injustice influences. Youth Advocates of Sitka supports this legislation and endorses its purpose unconditionally,” said Youth Advocates Executive Director, Charlie Woodcock, of Sitka, Alaska.

Alaska organizations endorsing the bill: Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, Alaska Children’s Trust, Alaska Children’s Alliance, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Alaska Stop Human Trafficking Alliance, Catholic Social Services of Alaska, Cook Inlet Housing Authority. Covenant House Alaska, Ketchikan Wellness Coalition, Mat-Su Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, MyHouse, Mat-Su Youth Center, Priceless Alaska, South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services, Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority, Tundra Women’s Coalition, Women in Safe Homes, Youth Advocates of Sitka

National organizations endorsing the bill: Afterschool Alliance, Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), Covenant House International, ECPAT-USA, National Center on Sexual Exploitation, National Crittenton, National Network for Youth (NN4Y), Rights4Girls, SchoolHouse Connection, Selah Way Foundation, Shared Hope International, YMCA of the USA.

Background: This legislation builds on Senator Murkowski’s previous efforts to address human trafficking.

  • In February 2021, Senator Murkowski joined U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in reintroducing S. 220, the Emergency Family Stabilization Act. This legislation creates a new grant program to provide flexible funding for community-based organizations working to meet the unique and challenging needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness, taking into special consideration survivors of sexual assault or human trafficking.
  • On October of 2020, Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto’s Not Invisible Act, of which Senator Smith is a cosponsor, was signed into law. The bill works to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native people by engaging law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, and service providers as well as improving coordination across federal agencies.
  • In January of 2019, Senators Murkowski and Smith introduced the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act with Senator Tom Udall, a bill which aims to address sexual violence on Indian reservations by restoring Tribal authority to prosecute cases of sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking.