When Ashton Kutcher isn’t entertaining audiences, he’s fighting against human trafficking — and he’s got the figures to prove he’s making a difference.
The 40-year-old actor’s nonprofit organization, Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, assisted law enforcement in identifying 5,894 child sex trafficking victims and rescuing 103 children from “situations where their sexual abuse was recorded and distributed” last year, according to the organization’s own 2017 impact report. His ex-wife Demi Moore is a co-founder.
The nonprofit builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse. It also created a Technology Task Force — a group of more than 25 technology companies (including Google, Facebook and Microsoft) that work on software to fight child sexual exploitation.
Its data claimed that Thorn also helped disrupt 6,608 perpetrators, encouraged over 140,000 individuals seeking child sexual abuse material to get help and educated 3.5 million teens through its Stop Sextortion campaign.
Kutcher started the organization, previously known as DNA Foundation, with Moore in 2009 to deter the sexual exploitation of children.
In March, the actor spoke with 48 Hours about his advocacy work, admitting, “I have a hard time talking about this issue without being emotional.”
“What we do at our core is we build technology to help fight sexual exploitation of children,” Kutcher explained. “You can roll up your sleeves and go try to be like a hero and go save one person, or you can build a tool that allows one person to save a lot of people.”
Kutcher testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Feb. 2017, giving a 15-minute speech on modern day slavery meant to compel Congress to act to end the horrors faced by women and children around the globe.
“I’m here today to defend the right to pursue happiness. It’s a simple notion: ‘the right to pursue happiness,’ ” he said. “It’s bestowed upon all of us by our constitution. Every citizen of this country has the right to pursue it. And I believe that it is incumbent on us as citizens of this nation, as Americans, to bestow that right upon others, upon each other, and upon the rest of the world. But the right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away — it’s raped, it’s abused, it’s taken by force, fraud, or coercion. It is sold for the momentary happiness of another.”
He also spoke of the criticism he’s gotten from others — or as he referred to them, “trolls,” — who tell him to “stick to [his] day job.” He rebutted these critiques by saying that his work with Thorn is his day job. He then told a harrowing story about seeing a child, the same age as his daughter, Wyatt (with wife Mila Kunis), who is now 3-years-old, being raped by an adult man.
“I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man who was a sex tourist in Cambodia, and this child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play,” he said.
“I’ve been on the other end of a phone call from my team, asking for my help because we had received a 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 and she had been 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 potential last line of defense. That’s my day job, and I’m sticking to it.”
For more information, visit StopSextortion.com, or text “THORN” to 741741 to talk to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor.