Categories for Press Release

USCSAHT Second Annual Conference Explores Key Trafficking Issues

November 4, 2022

ST. LOUIS, MO – U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking hosted its Second Annual Human Trafficking Conference with nationally renowned speakers and survivor leaders, who shed light on many of the dark issues surrounding the exploitation of individuals Oct. 26-28 in St. Louis, MO.

This year’s conference theme, “Weaving Community, Building Capacity, Affecting Change,” featured speakers from national organizations dedicated for their efforts to address human trafficking. They included Lina Nealon from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Dr. Mandy Sanchez, World Without Exploitation, and Russ Tuttle from the STOP Trafficking Program.

“The annual USCSAHT conference afforded members and guests an opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues, to share ideas, to exchange information, and to learn more about human trafficking,” said Executive Director Katie Boller Gosewisch.

This year’s conference featured talks and breakout sessions including: the Demand for Sex and Labor Trafficking, LGBTQ+ and Human Trafficking, Men’s Role in Trafficking, Ethical Representation in Working with Survivors, Pornography and Trafficking, Advocacy 101, Cybersafety, Familial Trafficking, The Consumer’s Role in Trafficking, Trauma Informed Care, Migrants/Refugees and Trafficking, Direct Support Services, the Equality Model and more.

Attendees had the option to attend the conference in-person or on-demand via video recordings following the conference, which was held at the Sheraton Westport Chalet, St. Louis.

USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors. They dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support made up of many different congregations and other mission-aligned partners. Today, this member-based organization has grown to include more than 110 congregations of women religious and another 70+ individuals and groups spread throughout the United States. USCSAHT is also the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.

Keynote Speakers and Presenters included: Dr. Mandy Sanchez (World Without Exploitation), Lina Nealon (National Center on Sexual Exploitation), Terry Coonan (Florida State University), Russ Tuttle (STOP Trafficking Program), Sr. Anne Victory (HM), Peter Quillotine, Theresa Flores, Dr. Kim Hogan (The University of Southern Mississippi State), HEAL Trafficking, Alicia Cohen, Survivors of Human Trafficking and more.

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ECPAT Awards Recognize Human Trafficking Heroes

October 18, 2022

Brighton, MI – The ECPAT-USA Awards were held recently in New York City to celebrate individuals who work to combat child trafficking.

Theresa Flores, Program Director for the United States Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, was recognized for her work in preventing sex trafficking and the exploitation of children.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by ECPAT USA for the mission that God put before me 15 years ago,” she said. “This journey has been heart-wrenching, mind-opening, brought me to my knees in tears, and also opened my heart to the huge amount of support and happiness I have received in turn. Receiving the “Freedom Award” is humbling because it wasn’t just me who did this work, but also motivating because we need a lot more people doing this work to end human trafficking.”

In addition to being the Program Director for U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, Flores is the founder of the SOAP Project – Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, a non-profit that mobilizes citizens to help locate missing youth who are being trafficked during major sporting events and assists survivors of trafficking on their healing journey.

She has been a licensed social worker for more than 30 years, was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission in 2009, and has testified before both the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate in support of Human Trafficking Legislation. Additionally, the “Theresa Flores Law,” which eliminates the statute of limitation for children who have been trafficked, was passed in Michigan in 2015.

Flores is a survivor of domestic child sex trafficking and was sold in an underground crime ring in an upper-middle-class suburb outside Detroit from the time she was 15-17 years old. She has researched the mental and physical health problems of more than 200 domestic trafficking survivors and has hosted more than 200 women at survivor retreats.

She has received many awards including the 2017 L’Oréal Women of Worth, the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, the 2013 Christian Service Award & the 2020 Polaris Star Award. In January 2012 at the Ohio State of the State Address, Flores received the Courage Award from the governor for her work in human trafficking.

Flores also has published five books including, “The Sacred Bath,” “The Slave Across the Street” (in the UK and U.S.), and “Slavery in the Land of the Free – A Student’s Guide to Modern-Day Slavery.” You only list three books, so I added the including. The 10-year anniversary edition depicts the trauma of trafficking upon a person and the struggle it takes to heal. The audio version of her memoir—name– was nominated for the 2011 Audie Award, being in the top five of all memoirs and biographies, and has been on the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Seller list for e-books several times. In addition, she also conducted the TED Talk, “Find a Voice with SOAP.”

USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters who were committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors and dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support made up of many different congregations and other mission-aligned partners. Today, this member-based organization has grown to include more than 110 congregations of women religious and another 70+ individuals and groups spread throughout the United States. USCSAHT is also the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.

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USCSAHT Announces Communications Director

September 15, 2022

BRIGHTON, MI — U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) announces its new Communications Director, Christine Commerce. Commerce began her tenure with USCSAHT Sept. 12, 2022 and will be the first communications director for the organization.

USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters who were committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors and dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support. Today, this member-based organization has grown to include more than 110 congregations of women religious and numerous mission aligned coalitions and individuals throughout the United States. USCSAHT is the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.

Commerce joins USCSAHT as the organization continues to grow and diversify, increasing its impact in the larger struggle to end human trafficking and support survivors on their healing journey. She believes strongly in USCSAHT’s vision of a world without slavery and protecting the dignity of every human being. “I am honored to accept the position of communications director to further educate the public about this affront to human dignity so that together, we may stand in solidarity and break the invisible chains of modern-day slavery,” Commerce said.

Commerce brings her experience in the nonprofit world with volunteer management, education and outreach, program expansion, event planning, marketing and public relations to USCSAHT. She has previously served as Executive Director of Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful and most recently served as coordinator of the Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force. In addition to her extensive work in the nonprofit field, she has worked as an editor and reporter for Sunbelt Newspapers and freelance writer for the Florida Catholic, Orlando Magazine and the Tampa Tribune.

Commerce holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and communications from the University of Florida. “I am proud to have Ms. Commerce join our team. Her experience and passion for the mission of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is exactly what is needed as we communicate organization aims to our membership and the public at large,” said Katie Boller Gosewisch, USCSAHT Executive Director.

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U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking Hires New Executive Director

May 17, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 17, 2022

Katie Boller Gosewisch (Executive Director)
U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking
Katie@SistersAgainstTrafficking.org | 267-332-7768

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking Hires New Executive Director

ST. LOUIS: U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) is pleased to welcome to the team our new Executive Director, Katie Boller Gosewisch. Ms. Boller Gosewisch begins her tenure with USCSAHT May 17, 2022 and will be the second Executive Director of the organization. USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters who were committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors and dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support made up of many different congregations and other mission-aligned partners. Today this member-based organization has grown to include over 110 congregations of women religious and another 70+ individuals and groups spread throughout the United States. USCSAHT is also the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.

Katie Boller Gosewisch will be joining USCSAHT as the organization continues to grow and diversify, increasing its impact in the larger struggle to end human trafficking and support survivors on their healing journey. She believes strongly in USCSAHT’s vision of a world without trafficking and exploitation and uplifting the dignity of every human being. Katie shared, “I am tremendously honored to be chosen to lead USCSAHT as we work to realize a world in which trafficking is eradicated and the innate dignity of the human person is recognized and upheld.”

Katie brings great skill and experience to this role having served as the Executive Director for two Minnesota-based nonprofits: Living at Home Network and WeCab, both of which focused on serving vulnerable populations with important access to resources like transportation, safe and affordable housing, and medical care. She is a committed and vision-driven professional with more than 20 years of experience providing program management, educational, and fiscal leadership within the nonprofit environment; with a focus on advocacy, training, community engagement, grant writing, special events, and staff and volunteer coordination.

Katie is also well educated in the values and teachings of the Catholic Church, which inspire her to work for justice in the world. She holds a Master of Arts in Systematic Theology from St. John’s University and a Bachelor of Arts in Theology and History from St. Mary’s University. She has also previously worked as a youth minister and religious educator.

“The Board of Directors is pleased to welcome Katie to USCSAHT and we look forward to working together with her,” said Sister Ann Oestreich, IHM, President of the Board. “Katie has the necessary skills, experience, and passion to lead us into a mission-centered future in our priority areas of education, advocacy, and survivor support.”

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A Sustaining Legacy of Working for Justice: U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking Receives Legacy Gift from Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters

May 11, 2022

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) is honored and grateful to receive a very generous legacy gift from Our Lady of Victory Missionary (OLVM) Sisters, also known as the Victory Noll Sisters. This legacy gift will sustain the ongoing work of USCSAHT and honor the long history of the OLVM Sisters work accompanying those on the margins who are impacted by oppression. For the past 100 years, the OLVM Sisters have been living their mission and charism of presence, advocacy for justice, faith formation, and leadership formation with persons who live in poverty and oppression, who are on the edges of the human family. Since their founding, they have been focused on living in the communities they accompanied and meeting people where they were, responding to the needs as they arose organically through trusted relationships. Their goal has been to go where there is the greatest need and empower others to become leaders in their community, using their voice and talents for good. Now, they are living into the next phase of their life as they are no longer accepting new vocations and caring for the 32 sisters remaining in the congregation.

Part of living into this next phase of life for the congregation includes sharing their resources with other mission-aligned organizations through the distribution of legacy gifts. When it became apparent to the leadership team that the congregation had more resources than it currently needed, they asked the congregation at one of their assemblies: “Where do you want to make an impact? Where can we contribute our resources to places that are in alignment with our mission and charism?” Some of the key areas of impact identified were: supporting immigrants and refugees, working with women and children – particularly victims of exploitation, leadership formation of women, empowering Hispanic/Latino communities for leadership in the Church and beyond, addressing the climate crisis, and investing in community development of impoverished communities. While there are not many OLVM sisters who are able to engage in this kind of direct work these days, their legacy gifts are a way the congregation continues to live its mission in partnership with others.

Sr. Mary Jo Nelson, current OLVM President, shared that the mission and vision of USCSAHT to realize a world without trafficking and exploitation align well with the congregation’s focus on justice for women and children, promoting ongoing education, and supporting the work of the sisters in the U.S. who are also connected to a global network of sisters committed to this same mission and vision. The fact that our ministry has both a local and global impact makes it extra significant. The OLVM Sisters have been long-time members of USCSAHT, and with this legacy gift have solidified their support as legacy members in perpetuity, witnessing to their lasting legacy of accompaniment, education, empowerment, and transformation of society. USCSAHT is honored to be entrusted with this gift and legacy of the OLVM Sisters which will help sustain our ongoing work into the future. With this gift we can continue and expand our work to educate about human trafficking prevention and identification; advocate for stronger laws to prevent human trafficking, hold those responsible accountable, and support survivors; and provide direct support to survivors on their healing journeys.

The OLVM Sisters are the second congregation to make a legacy gift to USCSAHT as they near fulfillment. The first congregation was the Sisters of the Holy Family which you can read more about on our blog. If you or your congregation are interested in establishing your legacy as a champion of human rights in the work to end human trafficking and would like more information about how to make a legacy gift to USCSAHT please contactInfo@SistersAgainstTrafficking.org or call 267-332-7768.

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USCSAHT Launches Search for New Executive Director

February 7, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 7, 2022

Jennifer Reyes Lay (Executive Director)

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking

Jennifer@SistersAgainstTrafficking.org  |  314-707-7313

 

USCSAHT Launches Search for New Executive Director

 

ST. LOUIS: US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education, supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy to eradicate human trafficking, has launched a national search for a new Executive Director.

The ideal candidate will be a person of faith committed to the mission, vision, and values of the organization, and eager to expand its work to eradicate human trafficking and assist survivors. Together with an excellent Board of Directors and professional staff, and with a broad-based community of members, partners, donors, and friends, the Executive Director will lead USCSAHT forward, continuing the rich legacy of Catholic Sisters’ commitment to realizing a world without human trafficking.

USCSAHT is a young, vibrant, and quickly growing nonprofit. It began in April 2013 with a core group of 15 Catholic sisters who anticipated increasing collaboration among women religious and others to better minister to survivors, educate the public, and influence public policy in an effort to end human trafficking. At the initial meeting, which included consultation with national leaders in the field, the group determined to move forward with the creation of an anti-trafficking network.

Since then, this dedicated group of Catholic Sisters has worked hard to reach other like-minded justice-seekers, growing their initial group of 15 to almost 200 members comprised of congregations of Catholic Sisters, diverse coalitions working against human trafficking, and dozens of individuals who share its mission and vision. USCSAHT welcomes everyone to join in the necessary work of eradicating human tracking.

During the search process, operations and programming will continue as normal under the leadership of the current Executive Director who is working closely with the Board of Directors for a smooth transition process.

Read more about the open position on our Employment Opportunities page

USCSAHT Supports the Equality Model Approach to Prostitution

July 1, 2021

ST. LOUIS: As people throughout the United States prepare to celebrate Independence Day this weekend, we are reminded of the many people in our own communities and throughout the world who are still not free due to the global crime of human trafficking. U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) is a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education, supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy in order to eradicate human trafficking and ensure that all are free to pursue their dreams.

The month of July also ends with the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (July 30), and the theme this year is “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way,” reminding us that the most important voices in directing anti-trafficking work and initiatives in our communities must come from victims and survivors of human trafficking. The anti-trafficking efforts of USCSAHT reflect the core values of our faith centered in the dignity of every person, and we seek to center and prioritize the experiences of survivors in our work, listening carefully to their recommendations for what will be most helpful in truly ending human trafficking and providing the needed resources for survivors to thrive.

When it comes to the issue of prostitution and how to best prevent human trafficking, there are a variety of opinions and strategies. After careful reflection and discernment on the various approaches available, including listening to the recommendations of survivors of human trafficking, the USCSAHT Board of Directors has decided to take a public stance in favor of the Equality Model (also known as the Nordic Model or partial decriminalization) and against full decriminalization and legalization of prostitution.

Jennifer Reyes Lay, Executive Director of USCSAHT said, “I am proud of the intentional and deliberate process that the Board underwent to arrive at this decision, which was rooted in our values and our accountability to survivors of human trafficking. Going forward, I welcome collaboration with other like-minded groups, individuals, and elected officials to prevent the expansion of human trafficking and support all survivors through the comprehensive approach offered by the Equality Model.”

There are three main components of the Equality Model: 1) Decriminalize those who are prostituted or trafficked; 2) Provide support to those who seek to exit prostitution; and 3) Prosecute pimps, brothel owners, and buyers. In addition to the third point about prosecution, USCSAHT supports a restorative justice approach to working with those who have been arrested and charged with these crimes. We believe in promoting rehabilitation over incarceration whenever possible in order to address the root causes of the harm being perpetuated and prevent this behavior from continuing.

The USCSAHT Board decided to support the Equality Model because it is the model most survivor-advocates are proposing and is most in line with our values. This decision is based on a recognition that prostitution is inherently harmful and violent, and therefore a violation of human rights. This approach promotes a socio-economic system that prioritizes gender equality, aspires to economic equity, and recognizes the government’s responsibility to provide comprehensive services to victims. The Equality Model is key because it puts survivors and their needs first. Partial decriminalization minimizes the opportunity for traffickers to target the vulnerable and prioritizes community programs designed to prevent exploitation from happening.

Theresa Flores, Program Director for USCSAHT and a survivor of human trafficking said, “I support the Equality Model because it views the woman (seller) as a victim and not the criminal and yet goes after the Demand for Sex for Sale. Which is the only true way to finally end human trafficking once and for all.”

USCSAHT believes that full decriminalization and/or legalization of commercial sex acts normalizes the practice, which leads to increased demand. Research shows that whenever the sex trade is fully decriminalized, the demand for commercial sex acts increases as does human trafficking in order to meet the increased demand. On average, countries and cities where prostitution is currently legal experience larger reported human trafficking inflows.  Our commitment and accountability is to survivors of human trafficking, and any position that increases the likelihood of human trafficking must be opposed.

In taking this public stance in support of the Equality Model, we are committing to: 1) Supporting proposals and legislation based on the Equality Model around the country; 2) Opposing proposals and legislation to fully decriminalize or legalize prostitution; 3) Following the lead of survivor-advocates on solutions to prevent human trafficking and provide needed resources for survivors to thrive; 4) Holding buyers, traffickers, and brothel owners accountable for their harmful actions and promoting policies/programs that favor restorative justice and rehabilitation; and 5) Partnering with other organizations and coalitions that support the Equality Model.

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Survivor-Advocate Theresa Flores Hired as USCSAHT Program Director

April 12, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jennifer Reyes Lay (Executive Director)

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking

Jennifer@SistersAgainstTrafficking.org  |  267-332-7768

 

Survivor-Advocate Theresa Flores Hired as USCSAHT Program Director

ST. LOUIS: U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) is proud to announce that Theresa Flores will be joining their staff as the new Program Director for the organization, starting April 12, 2021. USCSAHT is a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education, supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy to eradicate human trafficking. Theresa Flores, the new USCSAHT Program Director, is a human trafficking survivor, best selling author, victim’s advocate, and founder and director of the S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) Project. USCSAHT is honored to work together with Theresa to realize their joint vision of a world without slavery and create a network of services and resources to inform the public, prevent the crime of human trafficking, and assist survivors to achieve a fulfilling life.

Theresa Flores comes to USCSAHT with a wealth of experience in the anti-trafficking field and a deep passion for ending human trafficking and supporting survivors. Ms. Flores has been a licensed Social Worker for over thirty years. She received a Master’s in Counseling Education from University of Dayton and a Bachelor of Social Work from Ball State University. She was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission in 2009 and has testified before the Ohio House and Senate in supports of Human Trafficking Legislation. Her efforts were a major part of the success of these bills being passed into laws. The “Theresa Flores Law” was passed in Michigan that eliminates the statute of limitation for children who have been trafficked. Additionally, Ms. Flores was in the Oval Office to witness the signing of the SESTA/FOSTA bill into law along with other survivors.

Theresa Flores founded The S.O.A.P. Project in 2010. Since then, they have given away over a million bars of soap labeled with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number across the states and assisted in rescuing many victims. The S.O.A.P. Project has also been featured on Dateline, Nightline and America’s Most Wanted. She also is passionate about helping to restore survivors and provides them with a free weekend retreat each year as well as a monthly support group.

Ms. Flores has received many awards including the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association 2013 Christian Service Award for her work with S.O.A.P. and in January 2012 at the State of the State Address, she received The Courage Award from Ohio Governor Kasich for her work in human trafficking. Ms. Flores was featured by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Museum in a traveling exhibit entitled, Invisible Slavery and has published four books, “The Sacred Bath” and “The Slave Across the Street” (in the UK and US) and “Slavery in the Land of the Free- a Student’s Guide to Modern Day Slavery”. The audio version of her memoir was nominated for the 2011 Audie Award, being in the top 5 of all memoirs and biographies, and has been on the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Seller list for e-books several times. Ms. Flores was also featured in a short documentary, “The Girl Next Door”, which won many awards at film festivals across the U.S.

Ms. Flores will be stepping down from her role as Director of the S.O.A.P. Project after more than 10 years and is excited about this new opportunity to share her wisdom, talents, and experience as Program Director for USCSAHT.

I am honored and blessed to join the USCSAHT as the new Program Director. As a social worker and expert, I am excited to add my knowledge to grow the work of the organization, and as a survivor, I am humbled to give my voice to what needs to be done to help those caught in this evil issue.  The SOAP Project will continue to mobilize communities and serve survivors with a new director as I begin this new, exciting journey.” – Theresa Flores, LSW, MA

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Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS Awarded Sr. Margaret Nacke, CSJ Bakhita Award For Outstanding Service in the Work to End Human Trafficking

October 28, 2020

ST. LOUIS: On October 27, 2020 during the annual board meeting of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT), Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS was awarded the Sr. Margaret Nacke, CSJ Bakhita Award for her outstanding service in the work to end human trafficking. The award was presented by Sr. Anne Victory, HM, Board President of USCSAHT and Jennifer Reyes Lay, Executive Director of USCSAHT. Members of Sr. Jean’s community, the Sisters of the Divine Savior, joined in the virtual presentation and celebration in her honor including provincial leader Sr. Beverly Heitke, SDS.

Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS has dedicated the past 17 years of her life to the work to end human trafficking and support survivors of human trafficking. Part of her legacy includes the creation and publication of the Stop Trafficking! Newsletter, a monthly publication that educates people about the crime of human trafficking in its many forms and advocates for changes that address the needs of victims and the elimination of modern-day slavery across the world. While engaging in this work, Jean also co-founded and co-directed Hope House, a home for women coming out of situations of enslavement in California. When Jean launched the Stop Trafficking! Newsletter, few people knew about the scourge of human trafficking. Her diligent and thoroughly researched work has served to significantly increase public awareness and provide a forum for advocacy and action to eradicate modern slavery. Sr. Jean Schafer has served as a member of the board of directors of USCSAHT since it was incorporated in 2015 and was part of the planning team prior to that. She is currently the Chair of the Survivor Services Working Group of USCSAHT.

Sr. Jean is the second recipient of the Sr. Margaret Nacke, CSJ Bakhita Award. The first recipient was Sr. Margaret Nacke, CSJ, co-founder of USCSAHT, in whose honor the award is named. Those who receive this award exemplify vision, courage, dedication, and creativity in addressing the complexities surrounding the issue of human trafficking. They work in collaboration with others to raise awareness, address the needs of survivors, and engage in advocacy. Sr. Jean Schafer, SDS as recipient of this award, embodies the hope that each of us can be instruments to bring about the eradication of the evil of human trafficking.

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Press Release: Catholics Call on Attorney General Barr to Protect Children from Online Trafficking

October 2, 2020

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9.29.2020

Jennifer Reyes Lay

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking

Jennifer@SistersAgainstTrafficking.org

‪(267) 332-7768

 

Catholics Call on Attorney General Barr to Protect Children from Online Trafficking

Petition with Over 1200 Signatures Sent to the Department of Justice

St. Louis, MO: U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT), a national faith-based network working to end human trafficking and support survivors, submitted a petition today with over 1200 signatures from supporters all over the country, calling on Attorney General Barr to do his job in relation to the Protect Our Children Act of 2008.

The Protect Our Children Act of 2008 focuses on preventing online child exploitation and prosecuting those responsible for this crime.  This legislation requires a strategic and coordinated campaign across many jurisdictions so that offenders can be identified and children can be protected from stalking and other forms of harmful abuse.  The Attorney General’s role with respect to this legislation is to review, update, and implement strategies every two years that are necessary to support the effectiveness of our nation’s response to online exploitation of children.  However, this is not happening.

USCSAHT Executive Director, Jennifer Reyes Lay, said: “We all have a role to play in ending modern day slavery through prevention, protection, prosecution, and rehabilitation. We take our role seriously in informing the public about this crime, advocating for stronger protections, and providing direct support to survivors. The Department of Justice and Attorney General Barr are currently failing in their role to fully enforce and recommend funding for laws that help protect vulnerable populations and prosecute those responsible for trafficking, and we must hold them accountable. Their inattention to this crisis has left our children at higher risk for becoming victims of this horrible crime.”

As children have returned to school, many through virtual learning, their increased time spent online and on their electronic devices puts them at greater risk of being contacted by traffickers looking to exploit them. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a 400% increase in reports of online child abuse and exploitation from April 2019 to April 2020, partially attributed to increased time online due to the pandemic. If we are to be effective in protecting our children from online predators, the Attorney General must assume his full responsibilities under the Protect our Children Act of 2008.

 

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