Preventing Future Victims By Helping Today's Victims.

Author:Hodge, Sharmese L.

Human trafficking has garnered a lot of attention at the federal, state, and local levels. It is finally on everyone's radar. There are taskforces, legislative teams, working groups, and philanthropic donors all dedicated to the mission: ending human trafficking. Yet, as I sit here, I am left with two questions--are we missing victims of this "modern day slavery" and how do we prevent it altogether? As a prosecutor, I see a divide in the handling and resources of human trafficking cases based on whether the victim is a child or an adult. Children are what most people think of when they think of victims and children tend to draw most of the resources and programming for addressing the issue leaving the adults with disproportionate resources that fail to fully address the need. The human trafficking resource system in general has been focused on the child who is in the custody of the child welfare system being housed in foster care who runs away, the child that is lured out of their home by an online predator posing as a boyfriend or girlfriend, and of course the sadist who takes a young person off the street and threatens them with physical violence to submission. The system has many great tools and resources to help victims of these terrible and tragic scenarios and the criminal justice system knows how to handle these cases. It is not the same for those in the adult category; the youth who got trapped in a world they knew nothing about and have aged out of the child centered system. The youngster who has been captive for so long they no longer think of themselves as a victim--and the system struggles to see them as one. In fact, we often label them co-conspirators when they are arrested with the trafficker and treat them as defendants. But what if they are a victim too?


Brenda comes in to the system after being arrested for conspiracy to commit human trafficking with her presumed boyfriend. The complaint is that the two of them lure women in under the guise of a romantic relationship and then force the victim to engage in sex for money, the proceeds of which go back to Brenda and the boyfriend. The victim's frantic 911 call from a hotel where she was being held and a detailed complaint that included details over the prior three days resulted in the pair being arrested on site and held on a very high bond. The "boyfriend" Earl posts bond but Brenda does not--first clue. Brenda is incarcerated for about a month before evidence...

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