ATEST Joins “Freedom Needs Truth” Open Letter about QAnon

An open letter to Candidates, the Media, Political Parties, and Policymakers:

As survivors, service providers, human and labor rights advocates, law enforcement officials, researchers and policy experts, we know human trafficking is real. For decades we have worked to raise awareness, enforce the law with a victim-centered approach, identify and aid survivors in their recovery, address underlying root causes, and establish policies to end this horrific crime. Our collective efforts have been aided by champions across the political spectrum. From Senators Sam Brownback and Paul Wellstone to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the bipartisan message has been clear:

You don’t score political points on the backs of human trafficking survivors, and you don’t lie about human trafficking to scare voters. We are in this together.

It is with this collective and collaborative history in mind that we say we are alarmed and deeply disturbed by the intentional spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation about sex trafficking aiming to sow fear and division in order to influence the upcoming election. Anybody — political committee, public office holder, candidate, or media outlet — who lends any credibility to QAnon conspiracies related to human trafficking actively harms the fight against human trafficking. Indeed, any political committee, candidate, public office holder or media that does not expressly condemn QAnon and actively debunk the lies should be held accountable.

Instead of actively propagating or silently condoning disinformation that harms trafficking victims and survivors and dismantles years of bipartisan cooperation, we offer the real facts about human trafficking.

The majority of trafficked youth have been abused or neglected, have run away or don’t have stable housing, or are immigrant children fleeing violence in their home countries to seek refuge in the United States. They are the youth that we as a society have failed. They are not abducted by strangers or Hollywood elites — they are abandoned by failing and under-resourced systems. There is not a deep state cabal of Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities who traffic children for sex. No major political candidate or party supports or condones pedophilia or human trafficking.

We work on these issues. We would know. Any time we spend engaging these lies necessarily distracts from the real work needed to combat human trafficking, and there is a lot to do:

• We need policies that address systemic vulnerabilities of children to both sex trafficking and forced labor.

• We need more housing, social, legal and employment support for survivors and vulnerable youth.

• We need to invest in fixing the child welfare system, and building compassionate and robust responses so that meaningful support is available for any young person in need.

• We need to invest in better training, strengthen victim-centered investigations, and expand survivor access to alternative forms of justice.

• We need better data, and greater diplomatic engagement so that human trafficking doesn’t get sidelined as a soft issue to be addressed after “real” foreign policy.

• We need an end to discriminatory practices against immigrants and communities of color.

• We need accountability for corporations who can figure out how to maximize profit but not how to protect their workers.

• We need funding and systems change that reflect these needs, not craven political messaging that ignores these realities in service of harmful lies.

As a diverse field, we acknowledge a spectrum of experiences, views, and approaches. We disagree a LOT. On this though, we stand UNITED and we reiterate: Anybody — political committee, candidate, or media outlet — who lends any credibility to QAnon conspiracies related to human trafficking actively harms the fight against human trafficking. This is an issue where Republicans and Democrats have historically put real differences aside in service of a greater truth: Americans stand united against human trafficking.

On behalf of an underfunded and nonpartisan field dedicated to ending this horrific form of exploitation and abuse and helping those who have survived it, we urge you to engage real needs rather than politically motivated and profoundly dangerous narratives that harm the very people who they claim to be speaking for — victims, survivors, children, families and vulnerable communities.


3Strands Global Foundation

Advocating Opportunity

Amara Legal Center


American Gateways

Americans for Immigrant Justice

Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Research

ATEST (Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking)

The Avery Center for Research and Services

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking

Community Legal Aid Society Inc. (CLASI)

Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants

Corporate Accountability Lab

The Exploitation Intervention Project

Foreign Policy for America

The Freedom Fund

Freedom Network USA

Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University

Give Way to Freedom

Global Center for Women and Justice Vanguard University

Global Fund to End Modern Slavery

Grace Farms Foundation

HEAL Trafficking

Heartland Alliance

HIAS Pennsylvania

Human Rights First

Human Trafficking Collorative Network

Human Trafficking Institute

The Human Trafficking Legal Center

Humanity United

Institute to Combat Trafficking

International Corporate Accountability Roundtable

International Institute of Buffalo

International Justice Mission

International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA)

International Women’s Media Foundation

Jewish Women International

Justice At Last

Justice in Motion

Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice

Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services

Liberty Shared


McCain Institute for International Leadership

Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare — North

Migration that Works

Mosaic Family Services

National Network for Youth

National Organization for Women, Hollywood Chapter

National Survivor Network

New England Coalition Against Trafficking

New Hampshire Human Trafficking Collaborative Task Force

North County Lifeline

North River Law PLLC

North Texas Academic Collaborative on Trafficking

Open Society Foundations

Phoenix Dream Center


Preble Street

Project iRISE

Quinnipiac University School of Law Clinic

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism


Sanctuary for Families

Shared Hope International

Solidarity Center

Stardust Fund

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Tivnu: Building Justice

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking

Union for Reform Judaism

University of Maryland SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors



VIDA Legal Assistance, Inc.

Additional Signers as of October 22, 2020:

Academy on Violence and Abuse

Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center

Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives

Karana Rising Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Mid-Atlantic Coalition Against Modern Slavery

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis Section

Project NO REST

Resiliency Foundation

Salvatorian Advocacy for Victims of Exploitation (S.A.V.E.) Inc

School Sisters of Notre Dame Atlantic Midwest Province

Srs. of St. Joseph of Cluny

St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Stop Modern Day Slavery

Teens Against Child Trafficking

Trafficking in America Task Force

Zero Abuse Project


For more information or to join the growing list of organizations that have signed this letter, please email [email protected].


The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) is a U.S. based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world.

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