WASHINGTON – With the release of a chilling video made by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria, the response from Washington, Hollywood, and the online world has been enormous.
#BringBackOurGirls – it’s not just a mission aimed at what’s happening abroad.
The horror of the Nigerian kidnappings has placed even more focus on those who force young girls here in the United States into sex slavery.
With an estimated 100,000 trafficked children in the U.S. every year, the largest group of trafficking victims are young girls and domestic youth.
“It definitely happens abroad, but it’s also happening here in our own backyards,” said Olivia Burns, of the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition in Toledo, Ohio.
Burns is in Washington to lobby members of Congress, trying to raise awareness about the sex trafficking problem in Toledo.
“We’re rescuing victims and we’re really making a lot of headway the more awareness we can get and people talking about the issue,” Burns said.
As support mounts across the globe, and inside the nation’s capital, Ohio Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said he’s hoping to get more attention for the legislation he is pushing in Congress.
“Horrible for those Nigerian families and those girls, but it has raised the visibility of the issue,” he said. “More and more of my colleagues are talking about it. I do think the American people do understand this is a real issue, and by the way, not just in Nigeria or the Philippines or other places but a real issue in our country.”
Portman’s bill is aimed at better protecting missing children so they do not get involved in trafficking. If passed the bill would require law enforcement to update missing children records, coordinate with child welfare systems, and allow state missing persons units to update information to a missing child entry in the National Crime Information Center.
“We started a caucus to deal with human trafficking and sex trafficking this is unfortunately a vivid example of why it’s so important,” he said.
The outcry over the unthinkable is felt in Washington, and with every day that passes it is bringing more lawmakers to this sentiment.
“I’m hopeful that this horrific example in Nigeria continues to raise the awareness and we continue to take some steps,” Portman said.