It is an honor to be here among you all today. Welcome to this anniversary commemoration to reflect on the Department’s efforts to advance the Nation’s response to human trafficking and for joining us in our enduring cause to help crime survivors find their justice.
Thank you, Attorney General Garland, Associate Attorney General Gupta, Assistant Attorney General Clarke, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Solomon, Members of Congress, Distinguished Guests, colleagues, friends, and fellow champions in our cause for joining us today.
We observed Dr. King’s birthday earlier this month and it reminded me of his words.
“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always right to do right.”
The Department of Justice, through its components, has built a multi-layered and robust response to the crime of human trafficking. Over the course of today’s program, you will hear about how DOJ, along with our Federal partners, Congressional champions, stakeholders in the field, grantees, and survivors of human trafficking have worked together over the past 20 years to ensure that survivors find healing and justice.
OVC first started in the anti-trafficking field in 1998 when we awarded our very first grant with funding from the Victims of Crime Act or VOCA. It wasn’t a lot of money, and you could say what we knew about trafficking at that time wasn’t much more. But we knew there were survivors in need, and that grant provided a path to assist them and a path for OVC to learn.
Two years later, with the passage of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), we were able to develop, expand, and strengthen services to reach more survivors. And before we knew it, Congress appropriated $10 million dollars to OVC in 2002, and we dug in. The following year, in 2003, we funded the first 12 programs under the Services for Trafficking Victims Discretionary grant program.
These programs were comprehensive, inclusive of all victims and all forms of human trafficking, and flexible so that service providers could be responsive to a wide array of needs.
This marked the beginning of a new chapter in OVC’s history and an enhanced focus within our organization. Our aim was to raise awareness, identify survivors, and connect them to much-needed services. In 2010, OVC partnered with the Bureau of Justice Assistance to begin co-funding what’s known as the Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking. These multi-disciplinary task forces use a holistic approach to identify victims of trafficking, address their unique needs, and prosecute cases at the Federal, Tribal, state, and local levels.
Working with all our partners across the country, we were able to identify strong or promising practices which share in resources such as the Development and Operations Roadmap for Multidisciplinary Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces; the Faces of Human Trafficking online video series; and most recently our anti-trafficking graphic novels written for young survivors of trafficking to help them navigate the judicial system.
Today, all of the Office of Justice Programs’ law enforcement, juvenile justice, and victim services human trafficking initiatives are housed within OVC; collaborating and modeling the multi-disciplinary approach we promote in our programs. And we’ve gone from $10 million in 2003 to this year awarding over $90 million in grant funding. Our grantees have gone from serving just over 5,000 clients in 2016 to today serving an unprecedented 16,000 clients based on our most recent reporting period. Our Human Trafficking Division, lead by Brecht Donoghue, and made up of 9 dedicated professionals manages approximately 500 grant awards worth $360 million. I know I may be a bit biased, but I believe our Human Trafficking Division is one of the hardest working teams in OJP. I’d like to ask the Human Trafficking Division staff who are here with us today, to stand and be acknowledged. Now, that is truly something to celebrate.
Getting to where we are in our country’s efforts to end human trafficking took all of us. It took the loud voices, the quiet voices, the sometimes shaking but still strong voices, it took the brave voices of those who survived, and those who spoke for the ones who could no longer. Your voices have been lifted up and have shaped what we know today and will form what we learn tomorrow.
It took the work of victim service providers and advocates who walked side-by-side with survivors and created programs to meet their needs, wherever they were. Adapting, collaborating, expanding, and innovating to make sure no one was left behind but, more importantly, to make certain that everybody was included.
It took the work of health care providers who understood the unique physical, and mental health care needs these patients often required. Recognizing that providing culturally responsive, patient-centered care is a critical component to meeting survivors where they are.
It took the work of dedicated law enforcement officers and prosecutors who were trained in trauma-informed techniques. Knowing that justice may look different for each survivor but that everyone deserves the same access to that justice.
It took law makers and appropriators who were open to the idea that combatting and responding to human trafficking is not just a whole of government concept but a whole of society imperative. Appreciating that funding is the lifeblood of these efforts and getting it in the hands of the people doing the work is not only a matter of how, but how fast.
As far as we’ve come, and as much as we are here to celebrate the good work that has been done; it’s clear, we have miles to go and work yet to do to end trafficking and provide pathways towards healing. It will take all of us, and it will take all we’ve got.
That’s why today we have arranged for you to hear - quoting Dr. King again, the “passionate concern of dedicated individuals” from Department of Justice leadership to pioneers and innovators in the field, to individuals who’ve survived. They’re going to talk about our theme today: Collaboration, Transformation, and Impact and they are going to talk about how the funding made possible by Congress for services, training, and technical assistance, is critical to moving the needle for survivors of human trafficking across the country.
With that, it is my distinct honor to introduce our first speaker today. Now, as Attorney General you can imagine there are a few issues that require your time and attention. When it comes to matters that impact people, when it comes to survivors of crime, this Attorney General understands the importance of his presence. This, no doubt, comes from his firsthand experience working with victims of crime as both an AUSA and as the lead prosecutor on the Oklahoma City Bombing cases. When you hear him talk about our duty to serve crime victims, you know you are listening to a true champion for justice. We thank you for speaking with us today on this important topic on this important occasion.
Distinguished guests, it’s my pleasure to introduce the 86th Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland.