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Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta Delivers Remarks at OVC's Anti-Trafficking Commemorative Event


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, Kris, for that introduction and for your leadership, which is so powerful, always. I want to say good afternoon to all of you, to Members of Congress, including Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, and to my DOJ colleagues here and to other esteemed guests.

As you all know, human trafficking, be it labor or sex trafficking, feeds on exploitation and often upon members of our communities who are already vulnerable, like unhoused youth, persons without lawful immigration status or those experiencing poverty. Data also suggest that while human trafficking impacts every racial and ethnic group in America, it disproportionately impacts Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color. 

Victims of human trafficking often face challenges in accessing trauma-informed and culturally responsive assistance and support and may encounter numerous obstacles when accessing justice or services. Human trafficking, with its complex and interlocking issues, demands the best of us and the best from us.

It is imperative that we employ victim-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive approaches to this work. Over the years we’ve learned not just the value of this approach, but frankly, the consequence of its failure. Earning the trust of survivors is an important step in detecting trafficking in the first place. Building rapport and engaging with survivors is instrumental to removing barriers that can otherwise prevent survivors from coming forward, accessing services and from potentially participating as witnesses in successful investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking cases. And finally, continued and collaborative engagement with this process and people with lived experiences is fundamental to a holistic and enduring effort to build capacity to respond to human trafficking. 

Progress is not guaranteed. It is hard-fought, and it is earned by the hard work we — and especially all of you — put in day after day. You all move us towards progress.

The Justice Department’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking reflects the department’s whole-of-agency approach to ensuring that victims of human trafficking are properly identified and receive the necessary support and services to heal and ultimately, to thrive.

Our FBI Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Unit partners with a range of federal, state, local and Tribal authorities to identify and investigate these crimes.

Our FBI Victim Services Division makes certain that identified victims understand their rights under the Victims Rights and Restitution Act and Crime Victims’ Rights Act and are provided critical services immediately following identification.

Our specialized prosecutors in the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section work with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide to strategically and compassionately prosecute these cases.

Our Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section helps recover traffickers’ ill-gotten gains and ensure that survivors receive the mandatory restitution they’re entitled to. They also build affirmative cases against traffickers by identifying money flows and related financial investigative steps to identify the traffickers’ financial networks with a particular focus on money laundering charges.

Our Office of Justice Programs provide grants, training, technical assistance, research, statistics, and other resources to improve our capacity to respond to human trafficking.

And as you just heard from Kris in her welcome remarks, OVC in particular is spearheading our grant making efforts, making it possible for communities to better serve trafficking survivors.

Our Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) funds community-based efforts to address the needs of children and youth victims of sex trafficking. OVW also provides funding to support prevention, intervention, and response activities, including culturally specific supportive services for American Indian and Alaska Native victims of sex trafficking. 

I am so proud of the work and the progress this department has made and of the transformations in the anti-trafficking field, including many spearheaded by the Office for Victims of Crime.

Over the past two decades, the funding and resources provided by OVC to grantees and partners throughout the nation has grown exponentially, as Congress has recognized the vital importance of expanding access to comprehensive victim services. Currently, OVC manages an unprecedented number of anti-trafficking projects and grants, working with an exceptional range of organizations — many of whom are represented actually in this room today — who are providing services to a record number of victims and survivors of human trafficking. The performance data OVC grantees report tells the story of the incredible volume of case management, housing, legal, employment, supportive and mental health services that they have provided. In the most recent reporting period, between July 2021 and June 2022, grantees reported assisting well over 16,000 individuals across the country. That’s a record-high number that reflects both the enormous impact of this funding but really illustrates a mere fraction of the harm that trafficking causes.  

So, as everyone has said before me, while we have much to celebrate, we remember and use today to remember that still so much more must be done for the most vulnerable among us. Knowing that you all are committed to doing this work with us a great hope because you are the best of us, and you will move us from progress to promise.  

I now have the pleasure of introducing my colleague Kristen Clarke, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, whose lawyers and prosecutor and staff have bene hard at work tacking human trafficking. So, please join me in welcoming AAG Clarke to the podium. 

Thank you.

Human Trafficking
Updated May 28, 2024