NORTHPORT- It’s being called one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, and it’s happening here in Maine.
That’s why the first governor’s summit on human trafficking will be held through tomorrow in Northport.
It aims to educate people about the exploitation of women and children with hopes of coming up with new strategies to help the victims.
“So I’m taken out of traffic. That person has been taken out of that horrible thing. It is that horrible, it is that vicious. They’re mean and rotten people. And you just don’t step out of line. And now you can breathe, but what do you do?” said Dee Clarke, an advocate for victims of trafficking.
Dee Clarke was trafficked as a prostitute when she was just 12 years old. Even after she broke free, she was still broken…sent down a spiraling path with very few places to turn.
“All that trauma that was stuffed inside started to play out and it really affected who I was. But I didn’t know it until I got appropriate help,” said Clarke.
Even today, that necessary help is lacking. Clarke says many victims struggle to get housing or assistance when they do escape from their pimps, and some end up going back because there isn’t help available.
Maine is no exception.
“Recruiters will go to rural sites, they’ll find small communities where there’s not much opportunity, they’ll prey on the hopes of families and young vulnerable people, and they’ll recruit them into their processes through lies and deceit. So we think that Maine is tremendously at risk for being a feeder site for many of these organized crimes,” said Bill Legere, a co-founder of the Not Here Justice Action Network.
Now, Governor Paul LePage and the Not Here Justice Action Network have partnered to host a conference to figure out what Maine can do to combat the issue.
“What are the priorities? We’re going to identify what we are doing right in Maine, where are our gaps, and then what are the solutions. And those solutions will draft out into a three year plan to move this issue forward so that we’re putting resources and efforts in place to ensure that we are doing what we need to be doing here in the state of Maine,” said Phillip Crowell, a co-founder of the Not Here Justice Action Network.
Advocates also stress the importance of community education on the topic so that they can look out for red flags.
Sometimes it could be a person’s only chance at freedom.
If you or someone you know may be at risk, you can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree to 233-733.