June 10, 2013 - Thousands of women and children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in New York State annually. Typically, it is the victims, not their traffickers and buyers, who are arrested. Equality Now, Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA), The Arts Effect NYC and the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition are campaigning to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA A.2240A/S.2135A) this June.
Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act
Sponsored by Assembly member Amy Paulin and Senator Andrew Lanza, the TVPJA is a comprehensive bill that seeks to improve New York's current anti-trafficking law. If passed, it would give law enforcement better tools to target pimps and buyers and provide comprehensive services to victims. The TVPJA is up for vote during this legislative session, which ends June 20.
Lauren Hersh, New York Director, Equality Now:
“When people think of sex trafficking, they think of women and girls being smuggled across international borders. But sex trafficking is happening in New York. It is essential that laws protect women and girls from those who seek to exploit them."
Richard Altman, CEO, Jewish Child Care Association:
“Jewish Child Care Association is committed to giving the victims of sex trafficking the resources, support and protection they need to live independent and productive lives. It is time the New York State Legislature did the same by passing the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act.”
Survivor leadership in combatting trafficking: Ruth’s Story
At age 12, after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Ruth met an older man who promised to love and care for her. Instead, he brutally beat her, repeatedly raped her and sold her for sex. Although Ruth was a commercially sexually exploited child, she was arrested. Ruth was placed at Gateways, a program of the JCCA, where she received treatment that has provided her with tools to rebuild her life and transition from victim to survivor.
Equality Now spearheaded Project IMPACT, an 8-week leadership-through-storytelling workshop for teen survivors of commercial sexual exploitation at Gateways. The project culminated in a trip to the 2013 Lobby Day in Albany where, Ruth and other Project IMPACT survivors advocated for passage of the TVPJA.
“Survivor leadership is critical to shaping anti-trafficking efforts. Ruth’s voice was so powerful during May’s TVPJA Lobby Day. No one could have made a more compelling argument. Survivors are the real experts. We need to listen to them,” stated Lauren Hersh.
“Storytelling is essential for the empowerment of girls. Giving these young, courageous survivors the tools, safe space, and creative guidance to share their unique voices and experiences is key to continued healing and change. The girls begin to understand – feel – that their stories have power. They become leaders and change agents,” stated Katie Capiello, Artistic Director of The Arts Effect NYC
The girls’ stories are currently being featured in Equality Now’s yearlong Survivor Stories campaign, showcasing survivor leadership in the anti-trafficking movement. Their story is accompanied by a call to action to pass the TVPJA and targets New York Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Silver, and Senator Dean G. Skelos. Information for the public to join the campaign can be found here.
About Equality Now
Founded in 1992, Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world through the areas of Discrimination in Law, Sexual Violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Trafficking. By combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy, Equality Now works to ensure that governments enact and enforce laws and policies that uphold the rights of women and girls. www.equalitynow.org
About Gateways JCCA
Gateways is a Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA) intensive residential treatment program for girls who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Gateways uses a strengths-based youth development model to help them recognize their trauma, rebuild their self-esteem and assist them in gaining the skills needed to return to the community as productive, independent young adults. www.jccany.org
About The Arts Effect NYC
Founded in 2007 by Katie Cappiello & Meg McInerney, The Arts Effect is a nurturing, empowering space for ensembles of girls ages 9-17 worldwide to come together and artistically explore their world through theater and storytelling. With a unique combination of intensive acting training, creative writing, debate and discussion, mentorship, and public service, participants become change agents – utilizing the power of the arts to share their voices, engage their communities, and raise awareness about the challenges facing girls across the globe. theartseffectnyc.com
About Project IMPACT
A pilot initiative of Equality Now, Project IMPACT is an 8-week leadership-through-storytelling workshop for teen survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. The goal of Project IMPACT is to introduce survivors to the idea that sharing their stories is a powerful advocacy tool that can impact the legislative process, and can work to combat sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. The program was done in partnership with The Arts Effect NYC, Gateways JCCA and the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition.