Trafficking is an extremely complex issue, and developing meaningful, Maine-based solutions takes hard work and patience. The successes that Maine has achieved comes from using one simple formula: teamwork.
In the past four years, thanks to local, state and national partners, more than a thousand law enforcement officers and direct service providers have had training based on nationally-recognized best practices for response. In addition to this, public awareness events such as the Not Here conference have connected students and citizens with the issue. Local efforts are bringing multidisciplinary teams to the table, and developing a home-grown human trafficking response.
Maine is now the recipient of its first line of federal funding dedicated to trafficking victims; a two-year grant of $400,000 from the federal Office of Victims of Crime will support collaborative services and protocol development in southern Maine. A new central resource – Maine Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Network – about sex trafficking exists for the state, with information about state and federal law, model policies and protocols, and links to best practices.
As of last fall, the crime of aggravated sex trafficking is on the books, increasing penalties for offenders, expanding the definition of a human trafficking offense, and opening up civil penalties and restitution for survivors. The Legislature passed Rep. Amy Volk’s, R-Scarborough, proposal that will offer an affirmative defense for victims of trafficking, as well as increased access to victims’ compensation (and enhanced fines for offenders).
Still, there is so much work to be done. Victims of trafficking and commercial sex exploitation experience an almost total loss of financial, educational, physical and emotional autonomy. Individuals engaged in trafficking are treated as a commodity or property, and are often reliant on a pimp, an employer, or an intimate partner to meet their basic needs. They may have limited or no access to the money that they earn; as a result, their ability to forge an independent, safe and self-reliant life is severely undermined.
Maine currently has limited specialized resources to meet these needs. For that reason, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA), with help from many partners, is launching the Maine Sex Trafficking Victims Support Fund this month. The fund aims to be a flexible, accessible and timely source of funds to support the immediate needs of victims of trafficking as they seek to increase their safety and start a new life.
Learn more at More steps needed to halt human trafficking in Maine.‘s Sun Journal article: