don’t just let this one pass you by: we have 7 days left: your tweet or phone call can save a child

 Ruse spent three years in a Cambodian brothel before being rescued.

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.  For my younger friends, try tweeting Congress to voice support for a bipartisan TVPA bill, everyone can play a part in fighting modern slavery.

For those of us who don’t tweet but CAN still use a cell phone, here’s a helpful list:

Call and Tweet these Senators.
Ask them to Co-Sponsor the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA, S. 1301)

50 Senators to Stop Slavery.  If we can get 50 co-sponsors by the end of April, we can tip the balance from inaction and indifference to action and momentum. Our leaders need to know that this is too important for them not to act. Your leaders are listening but we need to be clear with them: Enough Already. It’s time to rise above slavery.

Help by tweeting the following message to these Senators:

Co-sponsor the bi-partisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, S.1301 via @worldvisionacts

Or call with the following message:

Hi, my name is ________ and I’m from __________.  I want to ask the Senator to co-sponsor S.1301, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, S. 1301. This is a bipartisan bill and we need to put politics aside to fight slavery. Thank you.

State Senator Phone Twitter
AK Mark Begich (D) (202) 224-3004
AK Lisa Murkowski (R) (202) 224-6665
AL Jeff Sessions (R) (202)224-4124
AL Richard C Shelby (R) (202)224-5744
AR John Boozman (R) (202) 224-4843
AZ Jon Kyl (R) (202) 224-4521
AZ John McCain (R) (202) 224-2235
DE Thomas Carper (D) (202) 224-2441
HI Daniel K Inouye (D) (202) 224-3934
IA Chuck Grassley (R) (202) 224-3744
IA Tom Harkin (D) (202) 224-3254
ID Mike Crapo (R) (202) 224-6142 none
ID James E Risch (R) (202) 224-2752 none
IL Mark Kirk (R) (202) 224-2854
IN Daniel Coats (R) (202) 224-5623
IN Richard G Lugar (R) (202) 224-4814
KS Jerry Moran (R) (202) 224-6521
KS Pat Roberts (R) (202) 224-4774
KY Mitch McConnell (R) (202) 224-2541
KY Rand Paul (R) (202) 224-4343
LA David Vitter (R) (202) 224-4623
ME Olympia J Snowe (R) (202) 224-5344
ME Susan M Collins (R) (202) 224-2523
MI Carl Levin (D) (202) 224-6221
MO Roy Blunt (R) (202) 224-5721
MO Claire McCaskill (D) (202) 224-6154
MS Roger F Wicker (R) (202) 224-6253
MT Max Baucus (D) (202) 224-2651
ND Kent Conrad (D) (202) 224-2043 none
ND John Hoeven (R) (202) 224-2551
NE Mike Johanns (R) (202) 224-4224
NE Ben Nelson (D) (202) 224-6551
NH Kelly Ayotte (R) (202) 224-3324
NH Jeanne Shaheen (D) (202) 224-2841
NJ Frank R Lautenberg (D) (202) 224-3224
NM Jeff Bingaman (D) (202) 224-5521 none
NM Tom Udall (D) (202) 224-6621
NV Harry Reid (D) (202) 224-3542
OK Tom Coburn (R) (202) 224-5754
OK James M Inhofe (R) (202) 224-4721
PA Patrick J Toomey (R) (202) 224-4254
RI Jack Reed (D) (202) 224-4642 none
RI Sheldon Whitehouse (D) (202) 224-2921
SC Jim DeMint (R) (202) 224-6121
SC Lindsey Graham (R) (202) 224-5972
SD Tim Johnson (D) (202) 224-5842
SD John Thune (R) (202) 224-2321
TN Lamar Alexander (R) (202) 224-4944
TN Bob Corker (R) (202) 224-3344
TX John Cornyn (R) (202) 224-2934
TX Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) (202) 224-5922
UT Orrin G Hatch (R) (202) 224-5251
UT Mike Lee (R) (202) 224-5444
VA Mark R Warner (D) (202) 224-2023
VA Jim Webb (D) (202) 224-4024 none
WI Ron Johnson (R) (202) 224-5323
WI Herb Kohl (D) (202) 224-5653 none
WV Joe Manchin III (D) (202) 224-3954
WV John D Rockefeller, IV (D) (202) 224-6472
WY John Barrasso (R) (202) 224-6441
WY Michael B Enzi (R) (202) 224-3424 none



2 thoughts on “don’t just let this one pass you by: we have 7 days left: your tweet or phone call can save a child

  1. Although extreme poverty and the lack of law enforcement are mainly to blame for child sex trafficking in Cambodia, I think the Cambodian people’s casual attitudes toward sexual predation also contribute to the problem. Cambodians generally look up to foreigners, especially Westerners, as wealthy and benevolent. It’s unfortunate that some foreigners are in the country to take advantage of children.

    • Indeed, it is very unfortunate that much of the world looks to Westerners as “leaders” when in fact some of our behaviors are worse than animals. I would like very much if Westerners who visit abroad and who are known to have frequented brothels using children, that they be arrested the moment they arrive back on “home soil.” Cambodia, like all countries, needs to recognize that it’s most precious resource is its children.

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