‘I became a commodity:’ Human trafficking survivors urge Congress to ramp up protections

Every year, tens of millions of children and adults around the world become victims of human trafficking, and that includes cases in the United States.

Members of a House subcommittee recently heard powerful testimony from survivors about the need for lawmakers to pass proposed legislation that would ramp up resources for survivors and expand efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable.

New Jersey native Gina Cavallo testified about her own harrowing experience and her journey toward healing.

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“For nearly two years from the age of 18, I was prostituted and sold to the highest bidder and raped over and over again,” said Cavallo. “Being stripped of your mind, your body, your dignity, your respect, your humanity. I became a commodity to be used for others’ gain.”

Robert Lung, who is now a judge in Colorado, also shared his heartbreaking experience before the subcommittee.

“I survived physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental and emotional abuse, sex trafficking, and torture over the course of more than 13 years of my childhood,” said Lung. “I need you to look at our faces. Faces of these survivors not as if we are strangers with no connection to you. I need you to imagine instead that seated here are your sons and your daughters, your children needing this help.”

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Lawmakers are considering a proposal that expands upon the efforts made in the 2000 law known as the Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act (TVPA).

“The bill will strengthen and expand U.S. anti-trafficking programs, including ramping up prevention and protection efforts against the trafficking of children,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ).

“Democrats and Republicans alike, we are very united on this issue,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) said.

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