Urges victim protection, punishment of traffickers
Mayor Thomas M. Menino was joined today by a host of city, state, and federal officials for the launch of a public information campaign to raise awareness about the problem of human trafficking in the city of Boston.
U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, and Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley offered remarks in support of the Family Justice Center’s Human Trafficking Awareness campaign at an event at South Station.
Throughout the month of October, transit ads on the MBTA’s Orange and Red lines and on buses will feature the stories of those impacted by human trafficking, and direct residents to www.TheSexTradeDestroysLives.org to learn more. The campaign is funded by the Boston Public Health Commission.
“We are joined here today to raise awareness that people are being hurt, to remove the cloak of invisibility of the sex trade and to seek support in developing protections and services for victims of sexual exploitation,” said Mayor Menino. “The city has taken several concrete steps toward this goal, but there is more work to be done.”
“This public awareness campaign introduces us to just a few real stories that represent thousands of similar stories of innocent lives at risk or in danger in Massachusetts,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray. “Action needs to be taken, and our administration looks forward to working with the City of Boston on this important initiative.”
“The first step to combating human trafficking is acknowledging that there is a problem,” Attorney General Coakley said. “We applaud Mayor Menino, District Attorney Conley, and the City of Boston for their efforts to create awareness that people are exploited every day across this country and across this Commonwealth and we need to do something about it.”
In addition to launching the campaign, the Mayor and Family Justice Center Coalition members are working to reduce the number of human trafficking victims in Boston by changing the way law enforcement, policymakers, and the public understand human trafficking.
In January, the city announced a policy shift that includes not prosecuting juveniles arrested for prostitution and instead offering those victims social service support. In addition, law enforcement officials refocused their efforts on the pimps who exploit juveniles. Complimentary legislative proposals are under consideration at the State House. There is a growing consensus among lawmakers and advocates that services for trafficking victims are also a critical part of the policy solution.
“The health consequences for victims of trafficking are wide-ranging, including physical violence, rape, psychological trauma, sexually transmitted infections, mental health, or substance abuse issues,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Human trafficking is not a minor issue in Boston and often it is the most vulnerable who fall victim to traffickers and pimps.”
Because these crimes almost always involve fear and threatened or actual violence, it is impossible to get an exhaustive count of the number of human trafficking victims, public health officials say. However, in 2010 the Boston Police Department Human Trafficking Unit investigated 100 cases of human trafficking and made referrals for services in other cases which involved youth that were deemed at risk for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
If you or someone you know is being sexually exploited, call the police or the Family Justice Center, 617- 779-2100
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