On Monday, Rotary International celebrated their victories over polio and efforts to vaccinate children all over the world and took on a new challenge; the fight against human trafficking. More than 40,000 Rotary International members from 174 countries have gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to celebrate the Rotary Foundation’s “100 years of Doing Good in the World.”
Monday’s events featured actor and advocate Ashton Kutcher, Senator Bob Corker, Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission, and Rebecca Bender survivor, minister, and champion of trafficking victims came together to ask Rotarians to unite to fight human trafficking that is a worldwide plague.
“The business of rape for profit is about as ugly as you can imagine,” said Haugen during the panel discussion of human trafficking. Haugen said the way to combat trafficking is two-fold: First, through great law enforcement, and second, through great support for victims.
“Rotary is an organization like no other tackling tough problems. That gives us tremendous hope for the future.”
Bender, a victim of human trafficking, received a standing ovation after comments.
“The audience was visibly moved after her statements and she challenged people to engage locally,” said Kathleen Winn Executive Director of AZMEN; a group dedicated to male voices and action in support of women and children in Arizona.
According to Winn, who has worked with victims of trafficking like Bender though AZMEN and while at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said Bender “left the audience wanting to get engaged to protect children and learn more about their own communities’ efforts.”
Rotarians from around the world were told by Kutcher to help Bender. “She needs you,” said Kutcher. Truth is they (victims of trafficking) all need us and they need all of us to combat it.”
“There is a possibility we can end child pornography from the internet,” said Kutcher, founder of Thorn, whose organization has developed software that helps fights child exploitation.
Kutcher explained during the panel discussion how children exposed to child pornography can develop impulses and a proclivity toward acting on them later. Thorn’s software sends a message to Internet users who are seeking child pornography urging them to get help. He says hundreds of people have called as a result, seeking mental health resources for an impulse they never wanted to have.
“Anger and frustration are not going to fix this problem, but love can,” Kutcher says.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker, from Tennessee, said hearing those words from Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio were what inspired him to get involved and promote legislation to fight human trafficking. Atlanta is a hotbed for trafficking activity in the United States.
“If we are aware of what is being done right under our noses, and we don’t do something about it, what does that say about us?” Corker asked at a panel on human trafficking today.
Corker’s latest legislation establishes a Global Fund, which bankrolls efforts to pull together a lot of little incremental efforts into a vast public/private partnership that “will do what is necessary to end this scourge.”