Source: United States Senator for Tennessee Bob Corker
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today invited Nashville singer-songwriter Natalie Grant to testify at a hearing on progress in the global fight to end modern slavery. Grant offered compelling testimony about what caused her to get involved in the anti-slavery movement and co-found Hope for Justice, a nonprofit devoted to ending modern slavery.
Her testimony follows.
“Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to be here. I’m so honored to be here, and honestly, I woke up this morning thinking I am going to be so out of my depth with this. I am used to a microphone being in my mouth. I sing all the time, and I have no problem speaking, but it’s not usually in an environment quite like this. So it really is an incredible honor for me to be here today.
“You know, as I was thinking on the plane here, and I was listening to Ambassador Richmond, and I see your notes, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t even have notes to talk about this.’ But what I do have is just a story. I have my own personal story about how this issue has forever wrecked my life.
“And I never thought I would say that television changed my life. I never thought I would say Law & Order changed my life. But it truly was an episode of Law & Order that I was watching on a day off from touring when I was home in my home in Brentwood, Tennessee. And they depicted a gentleman who had an underage girl in his basement on the television show. And I just remember them always saying that Law and Order was ripped from the headlines, and as I was sitting there in my family room watching this television show, I thought, ‘What headline is this ripped from?’
“This was from 2004. I had never heard the term human trafficking before, and so as I was watching it, I thought, ‘Well, this is ridiculous. Why are they trying to convince us that there’s people holding people in their basements in the middle of New York City?’
“So I literally googled, ‘What is human trafficking?’ And that was the first time that I realized that slavery still exists in this country. I actually came across something called the Trafficking in Persons Report. And I attempted to read it, and I got about two sentences in and then I stopped. And I literally then punched in ‘faith-based organizations that fight human trafficking,’ because as a member of a faith-based music community, I was deeply troubled that I had never heard of this issue before.
“I was deeply troubled that people in the church were not talking about ‘the least of these’, which they talk about so often, but were being ravaged in this way.
“That is when I founded an organization, and to make a long story short, a couple of months later my husband and I flew to India. We landed and they took us straight into the red-light district.
“Um, sorry, I know this is probably not the appropriate place to cry, but I have never been able to speak about this issue in 14 years without weeping. Because I saw children for sale on the street. I met twin five-year-old girls who had to have reconstructive surgery to their tiny, little bodies. I saw a six year-old girl in a cage looking at me through the bars of a cage. She wasn’t screaming. She wasn’t asking anyone to bring her her freedom. It was almost as if she was resigned to the fact that this was her reality.
“They allowed us to tour a brothel, because they thought that my husband was a potential customer. And as we walked through these tiny, little cubicles, some with mattresses on the floor, some with beds, I will never forget walking past one that had a rope tied to the end of a bed post. And I made the mistake of asking why the rope was there, and the gentlemen we were with said, ‘That’s because the girl in this room is 15-years-old. She has an 18-month-old child.’
“There is no childcare, so they tether their children to the end of the bed while they are forced to perform their sexual acts. All I can tell you is that I was wrecked that day for life. I knew that in that moment this issue demanded my attention and my commitment. I didn’t know what I was doing when I left there.
“I flew back to America, and I thought, ‘Well, now what do I do? I sing in front of thousands of people every weekend, so what I’m going to do is to get up on that stage and I’m going to tell everyone that I know that this is a reality, that this is happening. Because if I didn’t know anything about it, chances are most other people didn’t know about it either.’
“At that time, I founded an organization called Abolition International. And to be honest with you, my first goal was to raise enough money to build an after care facility for women with children in India, and that is exactly what we did.
“But what happened in the coming years after that was that I learned about the issue in a deeper way. I met an organization in England, and we merged together, and we are now known as Hope for Justice International. And while it says co-founder underneath my name right there, I fear that makes me sound far more important than I am.
“The organization now is across four continents in eight countries with 22 offices. Last year, we rescued 37,000 children. It’s amazing to me the work that the organization is doing. But all I am is a girl who saw children for sale on the street. And in 2004, I was not a mother yet. But now I am a mother to three daughters, and now this issue is more important to me than ever before. And now I see that though maybe I don’t have the power that you have, I have the power of a voice. And if I can tell thousands of other people, ‘Listen, it’s not up to us to do everything. It’s just up to us to do something.’
“Every single one of us can do something. Every single one of us, no matter who you are, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your circle of influence, whether you have a platform or whether you are just serving your family, every single one of us can do something to make a difference.
“And though, I am grateful to get to do it on a large scale, I feel like the greatest difference I am making is when my twin daughters’ sixth-grade teacher said, ‘I was talking about the abolishment of slavery in the classroom today, and one of your twin daughters raised her hand and said, ‘That is not true. Slavery actually still exists in the world today.’’
“And then I realized that I must be doing something right. Because, though, my heart swelled with pride in that moment, it also broke at the same time, that my daughters are living in a world where slavery still exists, where someone’s daughters, someone’s sisters, someone’s niece, someone’s granddaughter is being ravaged day in and day out.
“I just say to you that though this issue demands my attention and commitment, I believe the same must be said of you. That it demands your attention and commitment.
“I commit my life to Proverbs 31:8, which says, ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Ensure justice for those being crushed.’
“I have seen those who are crushed, and I say that together we must do whatever it takes to give them justice.”
In 2015, Corker proposed a bold, bipartisan initiative to end modern slavery worldwide that became law in 2016 and now operates as the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS). The GFEMS is designed to leverage limited foreign aid dollars and galvanize tremendous support and investment from the public sector, philanthropic organizations and the private sector to fund projects and organizations around the world working to end modern slavery where it is most prevalent. With support from the administration, the U.S. made a $25 million contribution to the fund in 2017, which was soon after matched by the United Kingdom.
Click here for complete testimony and video footage from the hearing.