By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times
WASHINGTON, November 16, 2012 – Celebrity advocate Jada Pinkett Smith, along with her daughter, Willow, joined Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) at this week’s launch of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking. Survivors Minh Dang and Withelma “T” Ortiz were both present; their testimonies drove the message home that legislators must work together in order to pass effective laws against human trafficking. As I listened to their speeches, I thought of the many victims at that moment who were suffering and unaware that celebrities, survivors, and lawmakers were standing together on Capitol Hill, fighting for their rights.
In the year 2000, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in biology. I remember on my last day of school, I turned back for one last look at the building and thought about all that I was leaving behind. Graduating from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey was a turning point in my life. It enabled me to walk away from a dark past and to envision a brighter future.
Little did I know that another turning point had occurred in the year 2000 for those men and women, girls and boys, who shared a history similar to my own. That event was the passing of an historic law called the Trafficking Victims Protections Act (TVPA). The TVPA is a federal law which addresses human trafficking, a term I did not yet know upon graduating college.
I would not hear those words for another nine years; and it was not until then that I was able to define my past.