FLOOR SPEECH: Preventing and Ending Sex Trafficking, Addressing the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Native Women

I am pleased to join my colleagues today in urging passage of the sex trafficking bill before the body. There are many reasons why we need to deter the use of Internet resources by predators. The wisdom of this legislation should be obvious. This is legislation for the protection of our children; the most vulnerable among us.

I have an additional reason for urging the adoption of this legislation and that is the protection of Native women and girls from predators. I have been talking about the trafficking of Native women and girls for as long as I have been in the Senate: a little over 15 years. At first, the evidence was anecdotal. FBI agents familiar with trafficking patterns told me that Alaska Native women were a highly desirable commodity for sex traffickers. In some cases they could be marketed as white. In other cases Asian. There was a strong body of evidence that when Native women left their villages for Anchorage, perhaps to attend a statewide event, the predators were there too waiting to recruit them. I should also tell you that the prevalence of sex trafficking in Alaska is no longer anecdotal. Covenant House Alaska reports that 1 in 4 homeless youth in Anchorage are victims of sex trafficking and 42% of them are Alaska Native.

Over the past 15 years there is something else that has changed. The Internet means that predators don’t need to lurk in the shadows on the street corners anymore. And even though Internet coverage in Alaska isn’t what it is in the big cities of the Lower 48, the Internet is used to recruit girls for sex trafficking in my state. This is according to FBI Anchorage which I visited during the President’s Day recess.

Earlier this year, my friend, Ms. HEITKAMP and I came to the floor to talk about the urgency of addressing the growing number of missing and murdered Native women in America.

My friend characterizes the problem as epidemic. And I agree with her. Native women are victims of violence in unprecedented proportions. Not all of these victims are trafficked. But some are trafficked; they go missing and when their services are no longer needed, or they find themselves controlled by a particularly violent predator, they never become unmissing. Until their bodies might quite coincidentally be found. At which point they are finally regarded as murdered.

I say today there is urgency to keep Native women and girls away from the predators. And while turning off the Internet “on ramp” to recruitment may not completely solve the problem, it is a worthy effort in its own right.

Enough is enough! It is time that we attack the problem of sex trafficking at the source. And that means doing all we can to make the Internet a very inhospitable place for the sex trafficker and those who enable the immoral and disgusting trade in our fellow human beings.