Commentary: Urge U.S. Congress to action via your tweets
Ruse spent three years in a Cambodian brothel before being rescued.
April 23rd, 2012
12:51 PM ET

Commentary: Urge U.S. Congress to action via your tweets

Editor's note: Richard Stearns is the author of “The Hole in Our Gospel” and president of the U.S. office of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Follow Stearns on Twitter @RichStearns. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Richard Stearns.

By Richard Stearns, special to CNN

This February, I visited Cambodia, where my heart was broken by the evils of the sex trade in that country. Too often there is an acceptance of prostitution that leads to a male culture that believes sex with virgins improves health has created an epidemic of young girls and boys trafficked into the cities. Roughly 30,000 young women and men in that country (some estimates are as high as 100,000) are trapped in slavery. When imprisoned in the brothels, these young women and men serve roughly 700 people every year.

I interviewed a young woman named Ruse (not her real name) who had spent three years in a Cambodian brothel before being rescued and sent to World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Center in Phnom Penh.

Ruse’s story was heartbreaking. Her family was extremely poor, and when she was just 13, her mother became very ill and needed medical attention. Her father had left, and she had two smaller siblings as well. The family desperately needed money. Ruse told me, “My virginity was the most valuable possession my family had.”

The life Ruse led for the next three years defies all sense of human dignity. She was originally sold for $400 and then found herself captive in a brothel. Ultimately, a police raid set her free, and World Vision was able to help her with psychological recovery and job training. Today Ruse has a small apartment and a job as a nanny.

The suffering of Ruse and tens of thousands like her needs to end. However, the U.S. Congress is stalling on a bill that would go a long way toward locking up those who buy and sell human beings as well as preventing trafficking and providing treatment to its victims.

The centerpiece of American action opposing modern day slavery is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The bill helps and encourages governments like Cambodia’s to toughen laws against traffickers — including prosecuting here in the United States any American citizen who sexually exploits a child overseas. An innovative feature of the Senate version of the bill is that it allows the U.S. to partner with NGOs and foreign governments to achieve the greatest possible impact. World Vision works in Cambodian villages were trafficking is a huge problem, and we educate parents, teachers and children on the dangers of this trade in human beings and how they can prevent it.

This important bill must be renewed every few years to respond to the changing ways of traffickers. It has always been bipartisan and has always passed Congress unanimously. However, the law has been allowed to expire in Congress, and efforts to pass it have been bogged down by partisan games. With the failure of Congress to prioritize the fight against modern-day slavery, millions of children around the world, just like Ruse, and even children here in the U.S., are without the protection that has traditionally been offered by our government.

The bickering began last fall when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pulled funding from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had been contracted to provide services to victims of trafficking here in the United States. The resulting argument about access of faith-based organizations to government funding is an important one. But Congress’s inability to solve that debate should not mean that we look the other way while human beings, like Ruse, are bought and sold as commodities.

In conjunction with the International Justice Mission (IJM), the Polaris Project and Safe Horizons, World Vision is asking supporters in the U.S. to join a social media campaign against human trafficking and help move this legislation forward.

From now until the end of April, we urge people to call their senators or use Twitter with the hashtag #endslavery to get more senators to sponsor the bill.

By calling or tweeting Congress to voice support for a bipartisan TVPA bill, everyone can play a part in fighting modern slavery.

Topics: Government • How to Help

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. kevin

    It amazes me how few comments there are regarding articles in this section of CNN's site. Articles about drummed up phony political outrage get thousands of comments but real issues like this get so few. I wish the author the best of luck, and while I don't agree with the Catholic Church on things like birth control, I am amazed our Congress can't just differentiate where money goes and what it is used for. Are our representatives really that clueless and willing to play politics with the lives of the poorest and most harshly treated people in the world. I will send a letter and call on this issue. I will use social media too, but a letter and a call seem to really get attention for some reason. To the author, keep up the fight. The work you do is much more important than most of the nonsense our elected members do.

    April 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • jeri lynn williams

      Hello Kevin, don't be discouraged because there are so few comments. Most people interested in these topics are usually too busy serving others and have less time for themselves. It is amazing thinking about the number of good people busy helping others even if it's just helping one person. Bottom line-there are more of us than there are of them and we have the power with our votes. :)

      April 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      We are so blessed with a "do nothing" Congress today! Every issue is a "political" fight! Since the "good ole days" of the Pork Barrel have been sworn off, NOTHING gets accomplished! Every vote used to be for sale and things got done. No more! Of course the price of a vote was extreme, but who cared? How many Congressmen have been "caught" in the past few years? With the Pork Barrel, nobody got caught! Now it is "open season" on everyone in Congress.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Reply
    • Jonquil

      "...I am amazed our Congress can't just differentiate where money goes and what it is used for..."

      I agree. Congress has gotten so petty and spiteful. It's also a shame that The Catholic Church decided their supreme battle of this year, was going to be about trying to prevent women from using their state-mandated health insurance, how they and their healthcare providers deemed fit. So much time and financing has been lost as a result of this batttle against US law. Giving The Church the right to control American women and dictate law or giving them financial support to battle against human slavery: It's an unfair debate. Different charitable organizations should be classified to be perennially eligible, regardless of the current political spat in Congress and The Church should be a little wiser about which battles they choose to have Conservative lawmakers fight for, on their behalf.

      This is why President Bush saying "charity should replace government" doesn't fly. There would be too many ethical conflicts that would result from that.

      May 7, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
  2. Optima Moving

    I agree !

    April 26, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
  3. Christa

    If I wanted to contanct someone who had once been a Victim of Human Trafficking where would I go?

    April 27, 2012 at 9:41 am | Reply
    • Kevin

      It depends. In the US, call the Polaris Project. They really should be able to give you some help, but privacy issues might make it impossible. That said, they might just be living a normal life like most people. If international, it gets tricky. An organization like IJM might be able to help, but that really isn't what they do. Good luck.

      April 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  4. Will

    WHEN has Congress EVER listened to ordinary citizens? Since ordinary citizens DON'T BUY A CONGRESSMEN/WOMENS VOTE, there is absolutely no reason for politicians to listen to CITIZENS!

    April 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Reply
    • Kevin

      Sadly, on this issue it is sort of true. These people don't vote and they don't contribute money. Both parties really are sort of a joke on this issue, and even the ones that say it is an important issue to them do very very little.

      April 27, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Reply
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      September 21, 2012 at 1:11 am | Reply
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    April 29, 2012 at 1:12 am | Reply
  6. ma & pa

    We hope lack of comments is because people are busier helping than talking. We said a lot about how the atrocity of slavery is run in This country, but that was only a "peak under the edge of a very big rug" and we haven't seen any change here yet. Maybe people have short memories. Maybe omerta is scarey. Maybe the money's too good. But bloody from the lives of the innocent ones. Slavers don't care. The clean-up-crew is factored into the cost of doing business. Babies they sell to be used any way, then often worked until death, never seeing blue sky and flowers. Not loved and nurtured to become free, truthful, happy citizens...which is EVERY child's birthright, no matter how they may have been born to this life.

    April 29, 2012 at 2:29 am | Reply
  7. ma & pa

    U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, did you say? And who do you think has perfected the system best, organized and covered it, second only to that originating in the Middle East? To which system slaves get sold as punishment for struggling for freedom or approving of people like us who are slavery-despising, civilian-law-abiding parents.

    April 29, 2012 at 3:27 am | Reply
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    April 30, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Reply
  9. Hannah

    I don't see my earlier comment =/

    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply
    • shraeve

      I have not seen any of mine.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:40 am | Reply
  10. VAVeteran

    Dear Capitol Hill....What have you done to our country? You have managed to leverage our national debt into China's hand as a playing card against us. Their exchange rate works against us when we owe them so much that we dare not take any action for fear they will demand payment in full that we cannot make (Again, Thanks to You). Yet you have the audacity to ask for our votes? Worse,....we give it!

    May 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • Javad

      Hi Robin,I recently fduoned an organization called Someone's Child. Our goal is to empower moms to use their unique gifting to combat human trafficking., We believe moms are the most under-utilized group and yet, they are the ones speaking into the next generation of abolitionists,AND, two of us (myself and one of my co-founders) are heading to Cambodia to visit Transitions Global in August!I would love to talk with you all. We are going to host a community-wide Kids Clothing Swap in early September, along with booths that bring awareness to our purchasing power as moms and slavery in the supply chain.It would be wonderful if you all could perhaps join us!?!?Look forward to future conversations with you. And come like us on Facebook!!Warmly,Carrie KubaFounder, Someone's ChildEngage. Act. End Human Trafficking.

      September 18, 2012 at 9:16 am | Reply
  11. VAVeteran

    Ooooh don't I wish I had Romney's money to run! haha I'd run you in the ground. --
    First action as President: Launch the IRS against Capitol Hill and find out all the dirty underhanded actions you have taken against our nation and expose all your dirty laundry once and for all to see. Then call for your immediate dismissal and deny you ever holding any office ever in your lifetime in the USA or providences.
    Then, yes.... Prosecute!

    May 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Reply
  12. Ekow Tachie Ephraim

    This bill should be passed

    May 4, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  13. Jonquil

    Of course this must be stopped. Of course the sleazebags who travel abroad for this, must be exposed, shunned and punished. But relying predominantly on volunteer, charitable organizations to address this problem, on behalf of The USA, puts us into these kinds of political conflicts. Churches start making demands, holding their work hostage to having other bills passed that progress their religious laws and views within our government.

    If public money can't be used, shouldn't the wealthy religious opposition, open their wallets and foot the bill instead? Yes, but they won't. This is why we need government to take care of some things, not charity. Not to stop charities from helping, but to prevent these major disagreements from happening and stalling assistance, in the first place.

    May 7, 2012 at 8:27 am | Reply
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    May 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  15. Coriolana

    Oh please! They don't pay attention to our votes, what in the world makes you think they'll pay attention to tweets? Disingenuous bs.

    May 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  16. tina

    CNN is doing a great job. I wish them all the best. the pimps need to be killed. ruining a girls life like that .. is very very wrong. and i dont understand why people give birth to children when they cant afford to feed them. that needs to be stopped.

    May 25, 2012 at 4:40 am | Reply
  17. max33333444555

    why do we need an act of congress to ask cambodia to pass tougher laws? sounds like something the state department could comunicate to them. since rose, in the story, was freed during a police raid, it seems as if they are not simply allowing this.

    May 27, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Reply
  18. vitalik

    Hello, I am writing to you from a situation that does not give me no peace nor to citizens of Russia. It's about Krymsk and other cities that benefit from the flood. I like most, you first believed in the official data and our trusted TV channels, but the date of mp back to the Internet started to get horrible video from the scene. At first I did not believe it but after a night on the video was so much doubt that there was no meaning. I wrote virtually all the major TV channels in our country with links to the video that disproves the official data of the dead, and in the general version of the authorities about what was happening. I received no answer ... And the news does not show ... After that I was in a very shocked state wrote to the administration of our president's online letter as an argument which resulted in the same video, but also got no answer ... I beg you to help all internet soobschesvo in Russia shocked by what is happening! But not any action is taken! I'll give you the following links to videos and would like to ask you to give it wide publicity! And to help those people out there who are suffering!! that grief has touched the whole country, and the fact that the authorities do not be no explanation or understanding! PLEASE HELP! Najd ALL FOR YOU!! Sorry for my English, wrote a letter with the help of online translator!

    These are just some video if you need more material then please e-mail vitaltron@yandex.ru

    July 15, 2012 at 5:29 am | Reply
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