Advocating at the Government Level
I'm scrolling the International Justice Mission (IJM) Instagram feed and I see another heart-breaking picture of a survivor of modern-day slavery. These very real, very strong overcomers have been subjected to unthinkable brutality, emotional abuse, and manipulation. Powerful criminals attempted to steal and exploit their very existence and in their cases, justice prevailed. The criminal is now behind bars because someone in the local government and legal system decided to take a stand for what is right.
But not all justice systems are currently able to support the fight against human trafficking. Many countries lack the legislature and enforcement to put an end to these crimes. IJM is working on the ground level to lobby, support powerful policy-changes and even train government employees to efficiently work for the end of slavery in their country, within their specific culture and context.
Even here in the USA, policy can often work against the victims of exploitation and trafficking. For instance, a loophole exists in our current legislature that allows websites like Craigslist and Backpage to profit from the sale of humans without being held responsible as the facilitator of sex trafficking.
The SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017) Bill was recently introduced by Ohio Senator, Rob Portman and was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on November 8th, but has been put on hold due to warnings of "stifling innovation". Regardless of your position on this specific act of legislation, we can all agree that human trafficking is a bipartisan issue. The fight to end slavery neither belongs to the right or to the left. It belongs to everyone! The bill aims,
"To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to clarify that section 230 of that Act does not prohibit the enforcement against providers and users of interactive computer services of Federal and State criminal and civil law relating to sex trafficking."
To find details and keep up to date about the progress of the SESTA bill and any other legislation, go to www.congress.gov and set an alert to receive email updates when anything changes or progresses.
"Regardless of your position on this specific act of legislation, we can all agree that human trafficking is a bipartisan issue. The fight to end slavery neither belongs to the right or to the left. It belongs to everyone!"
An excellent resource I've come across is Polaris Project. When you visit their page you'll be able to "Take Action" in regards to current legislature. Among other efforts to take, right now you can sign the petition to propel the SESTA Bill forward in Congress and they have even provided a template for an email you can send your Senator to urge them to vote to approve this Bill. You can enter your email address for continued action alerts and updates here as well.
Similarly, International Justice Mission has a resource on their website called the Freedom Commons where you can find several ways to take action against human trafficking. You can also sign up for alerts here, along with information for hosting rallies, getting 100 postcards signed and sent to Congress and signing petitions for various legislation.
The last resource I'll share with you is the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. This organization focuses specifically on lobbying for change regarding sexual abuse and pornography within the USA. They have an Action Center where you can sign up for alerts and find numerous ways to advocate for change. Recently I signed an email asking the President, the Vice President, and my local representatives to take a stand against sexual exploitation. It took me about 20 seconds. The NCOSE also targets corporations like Google, Amazon, and Comcast to change their company policies to put an end to sexual exploitation and harassment. You'll find action steps to take regarding each issue they present.
After subscribing to all of these websites for their updates, I have been learning more about the current policies that need my support. With this knowledge, I feel empowered and confident to contact my local representative to voice my concerns and opinions. A simple search produced each of the necessary names and contact information from the President himself to my mayor. I am now following them on social media so that I can publicly thank officials for making positive changes or call out officials who seem to be standing in the way of progress.
When considering emailing or calling your representative here are some things to keep in mind.
These are real people who also possess inherent value and dignity. Treat them with respect, even if your opinion differs theirs! It is best to approach them right before the legislation you're referring to is in the chamber.
Make your position clear and reference the specific legislation on which you'd like them to represent your stand--this is what they were elected to do!
- Say thank you for taking the time to meet with you or read your email.
It may seem a little awkward at first, but with practice, speaking with your representative does get easier and it will take your advocacy to the next level!
About the Author
Allyss Flores is finally a grown up, having turned 30 this year. She is grateful that now, thanks to Dressember, she can fight for justice every December regardless of her life circumstance. Aside from advocating and telling stories, Allyss loves to raise her two small children with her husband deep in the heart of Texas.