“The title of this conference was not chosen lightly,” continued Finigan-Carr, who is also director, Prevention of Adolescent Risks Initiative, and assistant director, Ruth H. Young Center for Families and Children. “Moving from awareness to response is really what we want. We need to do more than know human trafficking exists. We need to be able to respond, because the children that we serve, the youth that we serve, the citizens here in our state deserve us to be better, to do better.”
The school’s initiatives have led to:
- Support of the University of Maryland Support Advocacy, Freedom and Empowerment (SAFE) Center for Human Trafficking Survivors, which is a direct services, research, and advocacy center on human trafficking, created as result of the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State initiative.
A 2016 study by the Center for Court Innovation estimated between 4,457 and 20,995 13- to 17-year-olds are involved in the sex trade in the United States. In Maryland, between July 2013 and June 2017, more than 350 cases of suspected child sex trafficking were reported by local departments of social services statewide.
Child victims of trafficking are recruited, transported, transferred, harbored, or received for the purpose of exploitation, Finigan-Carr continued, noting they may be forced to work in sweatshops, on farms, in traveling sales crews, in restaurants, hotels, brothels, or strip clubs, or for escort or massage services.
Other speakers included Maryland Assistant U.S. Attorney Ayn Ducao, who chairs the MHTTF and said when she started prosecuting human trafficking cases, she focused on the wrong questions.
“I focused on the question of ‘Why does the victim stay? Why didn’t she leave? Why doesn’t she seek help?’ ’’ Ducao said. In her first human trafficking case, the “she” was a 14-year-old sex trafficking victim.
“I came to realize those are the wrong questions to be asking,” she said. “You don’t ask a robbery victim, ‘Why did she let herself get mugged?’ We shouldn’t be asking the human trafficking victim. ‘Why do you let yourself get trafficked?’ as if that victimization was her choice.”