Today, the House of Representatives passed five bipartisan bills strengthening our national response to the growing crisis of human trafficking. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte summed up the issue clearly on the House floor during legislative debate. He stated that the House has undertaken this policy discussion in order to address the reality that our society allows the “rape of children by adults for profit” to go unpunished. Adults too are caught in the slavery of sexual exploitation, and the measures considered today emphasize that the coercion of either children or adults for economic gain is a fundamental assault on human rights and human dignity.

The five bills approved this evening address various aspects of this crisis, advancing reforms to our foster care system, encouraging greater federal and state coordination and partnerships in programs to provide intervention and after care for victims, giving new tools to law enforcement, and focusing on treating those trapped in commercial sexual activity as victims. These efforts are important and needed, and the bills’ sponsors, including Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Missouri, Congressman Ted Poe of Texas, Congressman Eric Paulsen of Minnesota, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, and Congressman Dave Reichert of Washington, are to be commended for their work to craft legislative responses to problems in our justice system.

However, in the ongoing discussion about increasing penalties for pimps and predators, we cannot lose sight of the prevailing individual and cultural belief that “anything goes” and sexual fulfillment and pleasure are to be pursued at any cost. Such beliefs contribute to the rising national consumption of pornography, a product increasingly dependent on the labor of trafficked women and children. Our society by and large continues to turn a blind eye to an industry built upon the exploitation of human beings for profit because we are uncomfortable confronting the reality that our own addiction to sexual entertainment makes us culpable in this national crisis.

Fortunately, law plays a role in shaping cultural values, and today’s proposed changes to federal law clearly convey the House’s firm belief that the dehumanization of women and children through trafficking cannot ever be justified or defended. That’s a message we need to repeat over and over again. For more information about how trafficking affects your community, download FRC’s brochure “Modern Slavery: How to Fight Human Trafficking in Your Community.”