Ashton Kutcher gave an emotional Senate testimony, speaking to the horrific acts he's seen while fighting to stop sex trafficking around the world. USA TODAY NETWORK
Iowa native Ashton Kutcher testified in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on human trafficking and modern slavery Wednesday morning in Washington.
The co-founder of Thorn, a task force of companies using technology to tackle human trafficking, Kutcher delivered an emotional 20 minute speech asking lawmakers to fund and back the work of his partners.
“I am here today to defend the right to pursue happiness,” Kutcher said.
“The right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away,” he continued. “It is raped. It is abused. It is taken by force, fraud or coercion. It is sold for the momentary happiness of another.”
Just completing his speech’s introduction, Kutcher said that “this is about the time where the Internet trolls tell me to stick to my day job.”
“My day job is as the chairman and co-founder of Thorn," he said. "We build software to fight human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. The other of my day jobs is being the father of two.”
Mobile and app users: Click here to watch Kutcher's testimony.
Kutcher then went into the stories of the victims he’s spoken to through his work with law enforcement. He said he’s met victims in Russia, India, New York and New Jersey and “seen things no person should ever see” while riding along on FBI raids.
“I’ve see video content of a child (who) is the same age as mine being raped by an American man (who) was a sex tourist in Cambodia,” he said, his voice catching, “and this child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play.”
Ashton Kutcher is doing his part to eradicate sex trafficking. Testifying at a Senate hearing, the actor became emotional as he spoke about what he has witnessed world-wide in his effort to fight sexual abuse. AP
“I’ve been on the other end of a phone call from my team asking for my help because we had received a phone call from the Department of Homeland Security telling us that a 7-year-old girl was being sexually abused and that content was being spread around the dark web," he continued. "And she was being abused and they’d watched her for three years and they could not find the perpetrator. Asking us for help. We were the last line of defense — an actor and his foundation were the last line of defense.”
Kutcher, who has long been a venture capitalist in the tech space, transitioned to talk about how technology can be used “to enable slavery and to disable slavery.”
For example, Kutcher said, a girl who he called Amy met a man online and was kidnapped into sex slavery when she went to meet him in person. But by using a Thorn technology called Spotlight, law enforcement was able to deliver her back to her family in three days, he said.
“There’s often a misconception about technology that in some way it is the generator of some evil, that it is creating job displacement and that it enables violence and malice acts, but ... I see technology as simply a tool.”
“So where do we go from here?” Kutcher asked, before listing off what he is asking for from the lawmakers present:
- Financing to build these tools.
- Continued fostering of private and public partnerships, like Thorn.
- Legislation addressing the pipeline into sex trafficking and the pipeline out of it. One of the pipelines in, Kutcher said, is the current state of the foster care system in which “a child is more than four times likely to be exposed to sexual abuse.” One of the issues with the pipelines out, he said, was the lack of beds in mental health hospitals to give victims the time and space to recover.
- The bifurcation of human sex trafficking and labor trafficking as different issues needing to be addressed through different laws and funding initiatives.
Kutcher ended his speech by saying that it was “not lost” on him that the disruption in our marketplaces caused by ending slavery in America and abroad “will have economic backlash.”
“But I ask you, do you believe that Abraham Lincoln had to consider the economic backlash of shutting down the cotton fields in the South when he shut down slavery?" he said. "Because I am sure that weighed on his mind.”