That is why I, along with a coalition of legislators, law enforcement and advocates, filed the bill “An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People,” which was signed into law in November 2011 and went into effect in February 2012. This law makes trafficking a felony, increasing fines for those who buy trafficked labor and addressing the needs of victims. Law enforcement has made multiple arrests in the past year, often targeting organizations that bring women from out of state, housing them in deplorable conditions and profiting by selling them over and over again. In addition to enforcement action, our office has been working and meeting regularly with other state agencies and nonprofits across the state to prevent this crime when possible and address its aftermath where it has already occurred.
Today, all but one state has some form of anti-trafficking law. Momentum against trafficking is increasing, but more must be done. Our work to reduce the demand for commercial sex is built on a simple, solid foundation: Societal change requires information.
Those who buy into the notion that selling sex is just another career choice should know that most prostitutes are, at the very best, selling themselves for the lack of other means to support themselves. In fact, those used in commercial sex lead an extremely dangerous existence — epidemiologists report that those persons used in commercial sex live only to an average age of 34. Many aren’t willing participants. And, the stark reality is that many aren’t even old enough to consent to sex. If apprehended, johns increasingly face serious criminal prosecution. These basic facts, if widely understood, should reduce the demand for commercial sex and thus lessen the number of human trafficking victims.
If you wish to join our effort, consider offering your time and financial support to charities that provide services to victims. Men can speak out against johns who purchase individuals for sex. Parents, parent-teacher organizations and schools can help educate children about how to protect themselves online. Doctors, nurses, and hospitality and travel industry workers can seek training to identify victims and help them access services.
Each one of us can do something to combat human trafficking. The fight to end the exploitation of human trafficking victims continues. Join us.
Martha Coakley is attorney general of Massachusetts.