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New England News

Massachusetts Charged 25 With Human Trafficking Since 2011

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey
Jim Levulis
/
WAMC
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

Massachusetts law enforcement officials are highlighting the ills and dangers of human trafficking in an attempt to root out the practice.Attorney General Maura Healey was joined by state police and victim support groups Thursday for a press conference on human trafficking in the Bay State. Since the passage of a 2011 state law, Massachusetts has charged 25 people in connection with human trafficking.

“Traffickers prey on vulnerable women and profit from their exploitation,” Healey said. “No young woman chooses this willingly. Many of these women found themselves in dire financial situations lured in by the promise of compensation, support, security or a roof over their head.”

On Thursday, Healey announced the indictments of five individuals in three human trafficking schemes. The Democrat says one of those charged used the powerful opioid fentanyl to coerce women into prostitution and collected all the money they received.

“Statistics show that women in this life are continually raped, physically assaulted and suffer from PTSD at significant levels – levels higher than that experienced by even combat veterans,” Healey said. “This is not, to be clear, an issue of consensual sex among adults.”

Healey says the average age of girls who are forced into the sex trade is between 12 and 14. The survivor support group My Life My Choice served more than 140 young people from the greater Boston area last year. Eighty percent of them had been involved with the state’s Department of Children and Families. A recently created three-member state police unit has been tasked with investigating incidents of human trafficking involving juveniles.

“Traffickers count on those young women not cooperating with police,”  said Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Colonel Richard McKeon. “By ensuring that we support those victims we can give them the safety they need to break the cycle of abuse, cooperate with our investigation and take the perpetrators off the street.”

Dhakir Warren is with the group Demand Abolition, which works to increase social and legal pressure on people who buy sex.

“For every pimp there are hundreds of buyers,” Warren said. “In Boston alone, we know that there are over 10,000 ads posted every month on “backpage,” a [web]site where a lot of trafficking is brokered. Each ad gets an average response of 46 sex buyers who are fueling this inherently exploited market. Without the buyers all of this stops.”

The 2011 law established the state crime of human trafficking for sexual servitude, punishable by at least five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

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