McKenna, Martha Coakley announce ongoing effort to stop modern day slavery
SEATTLE – Standing today with two survivors of modern day slavery, the attorneys general of Washington state and Massachusetts announced that the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) will continue the fight against traffickers after McKenna steps down as the organization’s president.
“This complex challenge of identifying and holding accountable traffickers and rescuing victims is just beginning,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. “The work Rob started must go on. We will establish it as part of what attorneys general across the country do. We will work to empower victims to become victors.”
McKenna last year launched “Pillars of Hope – Attorneys General Unite Against Human Trafficking,” to identify victims of human trafficking and provide the services they need to rebuild their lives. The initiative also stresses the importance of identifying, tracking and holding accountable those who traffic in human beings and those who purchase their services. McKenna’s initiative culminated with a summit of international experts this week in Seattle.
“I remember meeting with Rob several years ago, asking ‘can you please take this issue on?’” said Rani Hong, who, at 7-years-old, was captured in India and taken into forced labor. “Today I am standing here in celebration.”
Kathryn Griffin Townsend, founder of an organization to assist women who have been rescued from prostitution, emphasized the importance of confronting pimps and standing up for their victims, who are often runaways, drug addicts and other “throw-away” members of society.
“I have been fortunate to survive having my ear cut off, my face rebuilt, my bones broken, hit and run over by a car – all my teeth knocked out,” said Townsend. “Only by the grace of God do I stand here today to give back and fight back. If someone is cursing you out, beating you, starving you, making you have sex for money for them, it is not normal. It is a crime.”
McKenna also referred to the ongoing battle against Backpage.com, which profits from “adult services” advertisements. The majority of state attorneys general have spoken out against the Web site because of the number of minors found to have been advertised on the site and subsequently victimized.
“For those out there, perhaps the owners of Backpage.com, who think that when I leave the office of attorney general or the office at NAAG that the issue goes away – surprise, it’s not,” said McKenna.
McKenna in June concludes his role as NAAG president and Maryland Attorney Doug Gansler takes over.
Janelle Guthrie, AGO Deputy Chief of Staff/Communications Director, (360) 586-0725