BANGOR – An Eastern Maine Community College student is trying to bring together law enforcement, fellow classmates, and sex abuse survivors to put a stop to human trafficking in Maine.
“Only one percent of trafficked victims are rescued, and we really need to change that statistic,” said Molly Fox, a criminal justice student at EMCC.
Fox is trying to raise awareness about human trafficking, organizing EMCC’s first all day conference on the topic which took place Friday.
Getting survivors help is something that’s especially meaningful for Fox. She herself is a survivor after three months of being trafficked. And she credits law enforcement for helping get her out of that situation.
“Not everybody that you view as a prostitute is out there doing it because they want to do it. There’s a lot of violence, there’s a lot of coercion. And you really need to take a step back and look at people’s surroundings,” said Fox.
Healthcare providers, police officers, and survivors shared their experiences.
Mexico, Maine’s police chief said it’s important for everyone to be able to recognize and report signs of abuse, like depression and isolation.
“Over my 23 years, the last few years we’re starting to see it more and more. And we’re trying our best as law enforcement to be trained,” said Mexico Police Chief Roy Hodsdon, who presented at the conference.
Experts said abusers manipulate their victims. But there are services for survivors trying to rebuild their lives.
Courage Lives is a nonprofit operating a home for human trafficking survivors in central Maine. They also help survivors from around the state.
“Survivors live in Fort Kent in the same way that survivors live in Kittery…we definitely want to help people connect with information,” said Carey Nason, the director of Courage Lives.
Experts said human trafficking is modern day slavery, and is not just a big city problem.
And while it’s happening in Maine, there is help and there is hope.
“It does a lot for me to help raise awareness and help the next person that’s either in there now or may be in the future,” said Fox.
“We’ve been able to see survivors grow. We’ve been able to see survivors move forward with their lives and do some pretty amazing things,” said Nason.
Event organizers said they want to put on a similar event next year.