In defense of children
Ashton Kutcher and Rotary address the global scourge of human trafficking
Actor and philanthropist Ashton Kutcher took the stage today at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, to address a major human rights issue: human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Kutcher, who rose to fame in the early 2000s with a series of hit film and television roles, is co-founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, an organization that combats human trafficking and the conditions that enable it. Trafficking in humans takes many forms but includes forced labor and sex slavery. It is among the world’s largest illicit trades, with many of the transactions happening online.
“As a young man coming up in the public school system in the United States, I thought slavery was done, a thing of the past," Kutcher said. "When I realized this was happening – happening even right here in Atlanta, a hotbed for trafficking as a travel hub – I was floored, and set out to learn as much as I could about it.”
Thorn specifically works to address sexual exploitation and the proliferation of child pornography online. By exploring and supporting new digital strategies for identifying victims, deterring predators, and disrupting platforms, Thorn helps lead the global conversation on trafficking – a conversation that’s continuing at Rotary’s annual convention.
More than 34,000 people, including Rotary members, partners, and friends from 175 countries and territories, have gathered in Atlanta this week to exchange ideas on how they can work together to improve lives in their communities.
Kutcher joined other prominent voices for a panel discussion on trafficking and how communities can combat it. Gary Haugen spoke about his work as CEO of International Justice Mission, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen local law enforcement and support survivors of trafficking.
Also at the panel, U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee discussed the legislative framework that allows traffickers to thrive in plain sight, and survivor Rebecca Bender offered moving testimony about the abuse she endured in the United States.
Recognizing the role that vast global networks like Rotary play in sustainable social change, Kutcher encouraged attendees to join the fight.
“There’s an inbound pipeline to trafficking," Kutcher said, "and that is vulnerability and poverty,” two issues that Rotary addresses through humanitarian projects and partnerships. Kutcher cited the example of the foster care system in the U.S. “Kids going into this system don’t have someone in their lives that loves them, which makes them vulnerable to someone who reaches out and shows them that attention. That’s how traffickers get in.”
Haugen pointed out that Rotary is already connecting with vulnerable groups, building relationships, and improving lives.
“What’s clear is this issue is everywhere around the world,” Haugen said. “There are survivors like Rebecca back home in your neighborhood and your country. Educate, serve survivors, and encourage local law enforcement, and Rotary can change this in our lifetimes.”
Learn more about how Rotary and Thorn are working together to fight trafficking, and how you can help.