Human trafficking is a horrible crime that devastates the lives of its victims – 85% of whom are women. Fear of violence, fear of criminal prosecution, and shame cause many victims of trafficking to stay in the shadows. That is why today we testified before the Judiciary Committee in support of LD 1730, An Act to Assist Victims of Human Trafficking sponsored by Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough). Our justice system must have every opportunity to assist a victim in rebuilding her life. Following is the text of the testimony provided by Danna Hayes, our Director of Public Policy.
Good Afternoon, Senator Valentino, Representative Priest and distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee. I am Danna Hayes, the Director of Public Policy for the Maine Women’s Lobby. We speak on behalf of Maine’s 678,000 women and girls.
We are here in support of LD 1730, An Act to Assist Victims of Human Trafficking. By its nature, human trafficking is insidious and secretive. Many victims never report their experiences for fear of violence or simply due to shame and embarrassment. As a result, even the most thorough research can never truly encompass the full extent of the problem. As you may have heard earlier, it is exactly this dilemma and the public’s lack of awareness of the issue that makes Maine an excellent target for traffickers looking for victims, the vast majority of whom are women. We know traffickers are taking advantage of Maine as a recruiting ground because calls to National Trafficking hotlines originating in Maine have doubled in recent years. However, another unfortunate reason for secrecy around this problem is that the victim, out of fear or some other form of coercion, was forced to engage in illegal acts. As a result, she may have legitimate fears about coming forward with her story and seeking assistance.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 85% of sex trafficking victims are women. The most frequent age to enter into the commercial sex industry is 13-14 years old. Advocates, legislators and the criminal justice community have already taken steps to ensure law enforcement is able to differentiate trafficking victims in order to assist rather than penalize them. However, these situations are not always clear cut. Victims are sometimes understandably reticent to speak out against their traffickers and we need to be using every tool available to guarantee that victims are not punished for their behavior when the method of coercion is less obvious. We are especially supportive of the affirmative defense specifically targeted for victims of trafficking. Our justice system must have every opportunity to assist a victim in rebuilding her life. Moving forward with a criminal conviction, regardless of the circumstances and her sentence, means a survivor must overcome yet another hurdle to rebuilding her life. Studies show that women with criminal histories are significantly disadvantaged in seeking employment and ultimately becoming economically stable. In this way, a trafficking survivor’s experience can continue to disadvantage her throughout her lifetime long after the episode has ended, contributing to poverty, unemployment and the host of concerns that follow.
It is for these reasons that we urge you to vote Ought to Pass on LD 1730. Thank you.
Call 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls and texts from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.
If you believe you or someone you know may be the victim of human trafficking, or if you’d simply like more information on red flags and referrals, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. In the case of an emergency or for local service referrals, you will be connected with the Maine-based project.
Chocolate is yummy,
A bouquet’s always nice,
But we want equality,
That’s a gift sure to entice.
Ok, poetry isn’t our strong suit – working on policies that make a better future for women and girls is what we do best. This Valentine’s Day, make a gift of a dozen dollars to the Maine Women’s Lobby so we can continue to stand up for policies that matter for your future.
You can make the Valentine’s Day love last all year long by making a recurring gift of a dozen dollars every month.
These words may be silly,
But the feeling is true,
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
From us to YOU!
Eliza, Danna, Molly & Kathy
See all: State of the State5 Feb 2014
Last night, Governor LePage gave his annual State of the State address. In response, MWL Executive Director Eliza Townsend made the following statement:
“Our state is still struggling to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We all know someone who is out of work or underemployed, and meanwhile prices keep going up. That’s why Maine women need real solutions to real problems. Our policy decisions must be grounded in reality, not stereotypes, anecdotes or ideology.
“Mainers who are struggling to support their families are not to blame for the economy, and making life harder for them will not turn it around. We do know what works to build a strong middle class. We need to build pathways out of poverty, including access to health care, quality affordable child care & early childhood education, and jobs that can support a family.”
The Maine Women’s Lobby advocates on behalf of Maine’s women and girls, focusing on economic security, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and freedom from violence.