What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the exploitation of a person for the purpose of labor, services, or a commercial sex act.
Massachusetts State Law
In 2011, Massachusetts enacted “An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People” to address the exploitation of children and adults for purposes of sexual servitude and forced labor. This comprehensive legislation created new offenses and increased penalties for existing crimes, expanded reporting obligations, mandated inter-agency cooperation to provide services to victims, and established a Victims of Human Trafficking Fund to help fund those services.
According to the Massachusetts Criminal Trafficking Statutes, human trafficking is defined as follows:
Sex Trafficking (Mass. General Law ch. 265, § 50):
(i) subjects, or attempts to subject, or recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides or obtains by any means, or attempts to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide or obtain by any means, another person to engage in commercial sexual activity, a sexually-explicit performance or the production of unlawful pornography in violation of M.G.L. C. 27212, or causes a person to engage in commercial sexual activity, a sexually-explicit performance or the production of unlawful pornography in violation of said chapter 272; or
(ii) benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, as a result of a violation of clause (i), shall be guilty of the crime of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude…
Labor Trafficking (Mass. General Law ch. 265, § 51):
(i) subjects, or attempts to subject, another person to forced services, or recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides or obtains by any means, or attempts to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide or obtain by any means, another person, intending or knowing that such person will be subjected to forced services; or
(ii) benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, as a result of a violation of clause (i), shall be guilty of trafficking of persons for forced service.
Who is at risk of trafficking?
While anyone can be affected by trafficking, data consistently shows that there are some populations that are at a higher risk. Generational trauma, historic oppression, discrimination, and other societal factors and inequities create community-wide vulnerabilities. Other factors that lead to a disproportionate risk of trafficking include: 1) history of abuse and neglect, (2) social stigma and exclusion, and (3) social disconnection. (Polaris Project; National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center)
The vast majority of trafficking victims identified in the United States are:
- People of Color
- LGBTQ+ Individuals
- Indigenous Communities
Other vulnerable populations include:
- Individuals with Substance Use and Co-Occurring Disorders
- Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
- Disconnected Youth
- Youth in the Foster Care System
- Individuals with Disabilities
- Survivors of Other Violence
- In-Home Workers
- Migrant and Seasonal Workers
Barriers to Identification
Many individuals who have experienced trafficking rarely self-identify as victims and often go unrecognized. This is due to:
- Shame or guilt
- Trauma-bond with the trafficker
- Distrust in providers and/or those in authority
- Does not see the trafficking as victimization
- Conditioned/groomed by the trafficker to believe the trafficking situation was their choice
- Language barrier
- Cultural barrier
In addition to these barriers faced by victims themselves, providers may also face barriers that hinder identification:
- Lacks knowledge about human trafficking
- Has preconceived notions of how an individual who has experienced trafficking will behave or what they will look like
- Misunderstanding of survival skills and/or feels the individual is unresponsive or hostile to questioning
- “Checks off boxes” without seeing the full situation
- Doesn’t believe it is his or her role to get involved
- Presence of bias or victim-blaming attitudes
- Lacks information on good referral options for services/resources
To learn more about recognizing human trafficking, please visit Polaris Project.