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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by OVC Director Jessica E. Hart During the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Webinar for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Good afternoon, everyone!

I’m so glad that we could all get together today and commemorate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

I’d like to begin by thanking everyone at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for putting together such an important event and inviting me to speak.

Today is a day dedicated to comprehensive and coordinated approaches to preventing and combating human trafficking.

This goal is more essential now than ever.

Trafficked individuals are facing barriers to identification and assistance right now. Trafficked children have limited access to their friends, teachers, social workers, community organizations, and have fewer places to turn to for help.

Additionally, the pandemic is stretching resources and presenting challenges for service providers, but also I’ve heard about innovative efforts to continue providing the critical services.

It is very clear to me how resilient, hardworking, and engaged this community is.

This conference is really another example of the resiliency I’ve witnessed. You were able to pivot and virtually commemorate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Thank you for pressing on and to all of you who are working hard to deliver vital services to victims in these challenging times.

As you all know, human trafficking is a crime that cuts across all races, ethnicities, genders, and socio-economic classes. 

Traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of their intended victims and deprive them of their human rights and dignity for purposes of their own profit. I stand with you all today in condemning those that deny the sanctity of life.

Combating trafficking is a top priority for this Administration, for the Department of Justice, and for the Office for Victims of Crime.

As the Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, I have witnessed firsthand how resolutely our staff fulfills this office’s mission of helping crime victims, especially during these difficult times.

And our goal, specifically for our anti-human trafficking efforts, is to ensure that all trafficking victims are empowered on the road to justice.

As the Director, I am proud to lead a dedicated and professional team that works every day to meet this goal.

The Office for Victims of Crime is the largest federal funder of combating domestic human trafficking. Our funding develops and strengthens programs for victims of human trafficking and those on the front lines of addressing this issue, including our brave law enforcement officers. Our funding supports direct services, task forces, stakeholder collaboration, training, and other direct support to the field.

Between July 2018 and June 2019, our human trafficking grantees, like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reported serving approximately 9,000 clients and training more than 80,000 service providers, law enforcement officers, and other community stakeholders across the country. And, in a single year, our task forces initiated more than 2,500 investigations nationwide.

In 2019, the Department of Justice announced more than $100 million dollars in funding through the Office of Justice Programs to combat human trafficking. Attorney General Barr stated “these resources will help our law enforcement officers and victim service providers hold perpetrators accountable and give victims of these crimes a place to turn for refuge and support.”

This year, we plan to award another $100 million dollars. This funding will go towards supporting transitional housing; serving youth and minor victims; providing advanced training for law enforcement; supporting task forces; and in response to the President’s Executive Order on Combating Human Trafficking and Online Child Exploitation, we have a new program focused on prevention and identification.

Trafficking is a constantly evolving crime. In the words of President Trump, “we will not rest until we’ve stopped every last human trafficker and liberated every last survivor.” 

I can assure you, we at the Office of Victims of Crime will not rest in the fight to end human trafficking.

Thank you to everyone who is joining us today and for your commitment to the same fight.

Date Created: July 30, 2020