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Services for Trafficking Victims

Each year, nearly 18,000 to 20,000 people—mostly women and children—are trafficked into the United States for the purposes of forced labor, forced prostitution, and other forms of modern-day slavery. Most victims are subjected to psychological and physical coercion ranging from verbal threats and abuse to starvation, rape, and torture. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2001, OVC authorized the transfer of funds to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division to assist victims of severe forms of trafficking by providing emergency services when those services are not available from another source.

In October 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to combat trafficking in persons and to protect victims. In FY 2002, Congress appropriated $10 million to the Department of Justice to fund a trafficking victim services grant program. OVC developed and began administering the Services for Trafficking Victims Discretionary Grant Program, which made the funding available to states, Indian tribes, units of local government, and nonprofit victim service organizations for the development, expansion, and overall strengthening of services for trafficking victims. In addition, the authorizing legislation provided for research, evaluation, training, and technical assistance. Also in FY 2002, OVC issued a request for proposals for services for trafficking victims under a competitive discretionary grant program. As a result, OVC awarded 12 grants in February 2003: eight grants to support comprehensive services to trafficking victims in a specific state or region, including emergency medical attention, food and shelter, vocational and English-language training, mental health counseling, and legal support; three grants to support specialized services for trafficking victims in larger multistate areas; and one grant to support training and technical assistance for other grantees. In FY 2002, OVC also transferred funds to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to evaluate this demonstration program. The NIJ evaluation will focus on three of the comprehensive sites funded. OVC-funded programs throughout the country now reach trafficking victims, fulfilling Attorney General John Ashcroft's promise "to ensure that victims of trafficking have the services they need from the moment we encounter them."

In December 2003, Congress continued to support trafficking victims by passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This act further protects victims by (1) allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to consider statements from state and local law enforcement officials as a way to meet a statutory requirement showing that victims have "been willing to assist in the investigation and prosecution of state and local crimes" involving severe forms of trafficking; (2) establishing a senior policy operating group to share grant information; (3) increasing the Department of Justice's appropriations to $15 million in both FY 2004 and FY 2005 to provide grants for states and localities, and authorizing additional funding in the amount of $250,000 for both FY 2004 and FY 2005 for training at international law enforcement academies; and (4) prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to "promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution."

Also in December 2003, OVC released a competitive solicitation for the development and provision of comprehensive services for trafficking victims in unserved and underserved geographic areas. About $9 million in funding is available. OVC anticipates making these new awards in April 2004.

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