Volunteers to fight sex trafficking

Julie Crain

CAMBRIDGE — Slavery.

“It hasn’t ended,” Julie Crain said. “It just looks different than it used to.”

Ms. Crain was speaking at a volunteer orientation meeting at Harriett’s House Drop-In Center on Saturday. The center, at 409 Muir St., will provide resources for women, with screening for human trafficking. Case management will be provided for women who have been trafficked or sexually exploited.

Harriett’s House takes its name and inspiration from Harriett Tubman, the Dorchester County woman known for fighting slavery in the 19th century. While that form of servitude is not practiced today, women and men do lose their freedom to sexual or labor exploitation.

Estimates say 20-30 million individuals worldwide are slaves, with most being exploited for labor. In the United States, the volunteers learned, about 46 percent of modern-day slaves are victims of sex trafficking.

Videos demonstrated to the volunteers how some girls – average age 12-14 – are captured.

An older man, maybe in his 20s, showers the girl with flattery and gifts, followed by a trip out of town. That leads to isolation from her family and friends, and a dependence on the man, who is actually a pimp.

“He was so smooth, he came off so genuine,” a victim named Brianna said in a video. Abuse and threats come next, along with drug addiction for many.

“They feel like there is no way out,” Ms. Crain said. “It’s a really tough life for these women.” Most of them, she said, are never rescued from the life they are trapped in.

The Drop-in Center will be open part time this month and in August, and in September will offer full-time hours. Clothes, food, toiletries, computer access and a cool place to rest will be available to those who need help.

Ms. Crain first learned about human trafficking about 10 years ago. Her Christian faith helped turn her shock into action, leading her to travel overseas on mission work to help women. That experience is being used to set up the next steps for Harriett’s House.

“Outreach teams will be established and trained to go into communities where prostitution is seen,” the group’s social media page says. “The goal is to establish relationships with sex workers, without judgment, to show the love of Jesus and to let women know resources that are available. We will help women to see a way out of the life and give them support to leave the life.”

Establishing a safe house to serve the Eastern Shore will be the next goal, where victims will receive comprehensive care and education. In fact, education is critical not only to a victim’s recovery, but also to fight the problem.

Friends and family should look for signs such as a new, small tattoo of a name or symbol; an older boyfriend; and new clothes or money. Friends are urged not to cover for a girl who is looking for an alibi – it might be a time when she is being coerced.

“The goal is to gradually help residents to get out on their own and to establish a home for themselves and their children, if applicable, the statement said. “The approach will be trauma informed care with an emphasis on individual and group therapy.”

To learn more about Harriett’s House, call 443-786-1843 or email julie@harriettshouse.org. Donations of all kinds are welcome, and volunteers are still being sought.

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