Human trafficking is the focus of attention as Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher and Boston lawyer Mary Mazzio shine a light on modern-day slavery. Ashton Kutcher recently testified before Congress about his effort to fight trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors. Mazzio is readying the release I Am Jane Doe, a documentary about teenagers—one only 13 years old—who fell into the hands of pimps and wound up sold for sex, sometimes dozens of times a day.
Kutcher was joined by Human Rights First president Elisa Massimino in his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He outlined the work of a company he co-founded, Thorn, which builds software to combat trafficking.
Thorn has created technology that helps speed up law enforcement investigations on dark Web sex trafficking sites from three years to three weeks. The goal is to help authorities identify trafficking victims quickly. The actor and entrepreneur was in Washington advocating more funding for software that can fight human trafficking.
“Technology can be used to enable slavery, but it can also be used to disable slavery,” Kutcher said.
Kutcher, who has met trafficking victims around the world, became emotional as he told senators about witnessing the abuse of a toddler in Cambodia the same age as his own two small children.
He also linked sexual slavery to the current refugee crisis. “When people are left out, when they’re neglected, when they’re not supported, and when they’re not given the love that they need to grow, it becomes an incubator for trafficking,” he said. “And this refugee crisis, if we want to be serious about ending slavery, we cannot ignore it and we cannot ignore our support for this issue in that space.”
Mazzio is a former Olympic rower and corporate lawyer, is releasing a new movie that spotlights teenagers who are working to expose child sex trafficking. They are the Jane Doe plaintiffs who brought high-profile lawsuits against the Backpage website for facilitating the sex trafficking of minors. Backpage at one time commanded 80 percent of online commercial sex advertising revenues in the U.S.
Mazzio points to estimates that hundreds of thousands of children fall victim each year to sex trafficking in this country.