Mr. Speaker, Arien Pauls was excited for her graduation from Bullard High School in 2007 and even more excited to head off to Fresno City College. A hard worker, she took a part time job at Taco Bell to help pay her bills and tuition. After posting online about her lack of funds, she was contacted by her soon to be trafficker. She thought he wanted a simple relationship. However, when she finally agreed to meet him in person, he forced her into modern day slavery. 

He moved her to Los Angeles and cut off all contact with her family and friends. For four years, Arien lived out of hotels and suitcases, her body being abused by strangers. After being forced to have an illegal abortion, she managed to escape with another trafficking victim. Luckily, her dastardly trafficker was charged with domestic violence. 

Arien has faced many challenges throughout her life. She witnessed her mother use drugs and then, in her narcotic induced state, abuse her. She was molested by several male family members as a child, but she was determined to create a better life for her and her younger brother. 

Arien refused to let her tragic past dictate her future. She became an advocate for human trafficking victims, using her experiences to relate to and help others. She volunteered with Breaking the Chains and the Central Valley Justice Coalition, where she shares her story with hundreds of young women. Through this group, she is able to educate students about the dangers of human trafficking. 

Arien is an unpaid volunteer and works as an assistant catering manager to support her 3-year-old daughter. Her dream is to one day earn a law degree and use her legal skills to further advocate for crime victims. 

Arien’s story is one of triumph. She may have endured horrific hardships, but she came out the other side stronger and more resilient. Each year the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus honors outstanding individuals and organizations for their tireless efforts supporting and empowering survivors of crime. Cochaired and co-founded by JIM COSTA (D–CA) and myself, the bipartisan caucus advocates for crime victims and protects programs that provide critical support for related services. 

I am honored to announce Arien Pauls as the recipient of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award. The Unsung Hero Award is in memorial of Eva Murillo, a prominent crime victim advocate from California. Arien has utilized her experiences to promote public education and awareness, public policy development and greater awareness about crime victims’ rights and needs, as well as her stunning achievements and passion for victims’ advocacy here today.

And that’s just the way it is.