Mr. Speaker, Rebecca grew up in a small town in southern Oregon. She was on the honor roll, and she played varsity sports.
She graduated high school early and immediately enrolled in Oregon State University. However, when her daughter was born, she had to withdraw to find a job.
Like many single moms, Rebecca struggled to make ends meet. But when she met a man she described as ‘‘Prince Charming,’’ she thought things were finally turning around for her.
He was kind, and caring, and offered to take care of her and her baby daughter. With expensive gifts and trips, he treated her to a lifestyle that she had never dreamed of.
So when he asked her and her daughter to move in with him, Rebecca thought she had hit the jackpot. But her dream quickly became another nightmare.
When she arrived in Las Vegas at his home, she found several other women and children already living there. This man then told her that now she would be forced to have sex with men for money.
When she refused, he beat her up, hitting her over and over again. Fearing for her life and the life of her child, Rebecca complied.
So for the next 6 years, Rebecca was forced to have sex with countless strangers many times a day. Any time she stepped out of line, he beat her up.
She had her face broken in five different places. Her trafficker even went so far as to tattoo his name on her back.
Yes, branded her like cattle. She was nothing but a piece of property to him.
After her fourth attempt to escape, her trafficker told her that he would start selling her young daughter for sex if she didn’t comply and submit. Feeling utterly hopeless, Rebecca tried to commit suicide two times.
She thought that ending her life was preferable to living in the hell that she had to endure every day. Finally, Federal agents raided her home and captured the trafficker.
But, Mr. Speaker, he eventually took a plea deal and only served 1 year in prison for slavery. Meanwhile, Rebecca was left to deal with a lifetime of pain and trauma.
As a former judge, Mr. Speaker, I believe the sentence was too light for a slave trader. No human being should ever have to endure what Rebecca and other trafficking victims like her have gone through.
Despite the system failing to provide justice against her trafficker, Rebecca has found a way to turn her darkness into light. Since becoming a survivor, she started the Rebecca Bender Initiative.
This program provides training for those who have the opportunity to be intercepted and intervene with victims who are often being trafficked. In this Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I want to commend Rebecca on her resilience and focus on providing support and compassion to the victims of trafficking.
As co-chair of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus, along with my friend JIM COSTA from California, we are dedicated to ensuring that victims and survivors know that we as a nation will stand with them. Traffickers, buyers, and sellers must be prosecuted and sent to the jailhouse.
And with the help of local, State, and Federal law enforcement, we are going to stop the sale of our children and our adult women on the marketplace of sex slavery. Mr. Speaker, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, but it is still taking place, and it is time that we defeat this scourge on our community.
Justice demands this, and justice is what we do.
And that is just the way it is.