Experts Find Maryland a “Destination State” for Sex Traffickers

Wendy Joy Heart’s father was a decorated military officer. Her mother was a volunteer at her school, not because she loved to give her time, but because she wanted to make sure that neither one of her children told anyone that they were being forced into prostitution and pornography by their parents at home.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) 100,000 to 293,000 American children are at risk for sex trafficking every year. The U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity section reports that the average age of entry into prostitution and pornography is 12. About 2.8 million children run away each year according to the NCMEC. Within 48 hours, one third of these children are lured into prostitution or pornography.

Lisa Carrasco, an expert brought in by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Morgan, spoke to a crowd of students last week about sex trafficking in the nation–and in Maryland and Baltimore specifically.

“We’re a destination state,” said Carrasco, Partnership Liaison for Armanita Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit that helps victims of sex trafficking. “Traffickers are bringing victims from California because they get a higher price here. They know the money is good and the demand is high.”

At $400 a night for a minor and between 10-15 buyers per night, along with the popular interstates that run through the area, Baltimore boasts opportunity for traffickers.

Araminta Freedom Initiative, a Baltimore-based group, was started in 2008 to protect the victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and aid in the prevention and public awareness of DMST. Armanita, which was also Harriet Tubman’s birth name, means defender. The organization’s mission is “to awaken, equip and mobilize the church and our community to end human trafficking in the Baltimore area.”

Araminta works with churches and foster care to provides help for victims of sex trafficking. It also advocates for anti-trafficking legislation. The organization needs volunteers to raise awareness and understanding in the school systems, mentor survivors and work with hotels to deter trafficking.

“Every time I walked into a hotel with an older man and people would look at me and not say anything, I always felt like they never cared,” one survivor told Carrasco.

In 2012, Maryland received a “D” in the SharedHope Protected Innocence Report, which grades state on trafficking legislation.

 

If you are suspicious of someone being involved in domestic minor sex trafficking, call 911, or make an anonymous tip at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888).

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