HONOLULU (KHON2) — Sex trafficking in Hawai’i is an experience that too many Native Hawaiians are forced to endure.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono has been working to bring to light the efforts and the reality of what is happening to women and girls and some boys and men as they are trafficked for human exploitation.

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For the State of the Union Address, Sen. Hirono has invited Native Hawaiian Kalei Grant to be Pres. Joe Biden’s guest which is taking place on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. EST. She is Native Hawaiian, and she is a survivor of sex trafficking.

Last month, Sen. Hirono participated in a roundtable discussion with Grant which followed Hirono’s passage of federal legislation that allows Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence to access critical programs and resources provided by the Violence Against Women Act.

“As a Native Hawaiian survivor of gender-based violence, Kalei Grant is working to help combat the crisis of violence against Native women and girls. I admire and appreciate her commitment to raising awareness and supporting other survivors, and I’m honored to have her as my guest for President Biden’s State of the Union Address,” said Sen. Hirono.

The most recent data on sex trafficking in Hawai’i provides statistics from 2019, before the pandemic hit. In Hawai’i, sixty-four percent of sex trafficking victims were Native Hawaiian; and for those who experienced sexual exploitation before the age of 18, the average age of exposure is 11-years-old. Twenty-three percent of Hawai’i’s sex trafficking victims were below the age of 18.’

The research found that victims’ initial experiences in sex trafficking in Hawai’i range from 4-years-old to age 50. Women/girls constitute the largest sex trafficked contingency making up 75% of sex trafficking victims. Men/boys make up 23%, and individuals who identify as non-binary or transgender made up 2%.

“Last year, we made important progress by passing my bill to finally enable Native Hawaiian organizations to use funds from the Violence Against Women Act to support Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence,” added Sen. Hirono.

Kalei Grant’s story is similar to many of the Native Hawaiian women who are forced into sex slavery against their will. She was trafficked here in Hawai’i, her native home. She was held against her will for two years before she was able to escape from her trafficker.

Once she was able to heal from this experience, she became an advocate for all those who have no voice. She currently works with the Department of the Attorney General in Hawai’i’s Missing Child Center.

Grant received the National Child Protection Award from the U.S. Department of Justice in recognition of her efforts in Operation Shine the Light which was a cooperative effort between Missing Child Center-Hawai’i; federal, state and local law enforcement agencies; and four nonprofit organizations.

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“I look forward to working with the Biden Administration, my colleagues in Congress, and advocates like Kalei to build on this success and advance justice for Native Hawaiian women and girls,” concluded Sen. Hirono.