In this quarter’s issue of Frontline, we highlight the issue of human sex trafficking and the efforts of MCASA’s Coordinated Action Against Sex Trafficking (CAAST) program.
What is your name, title, and how long have you been working at MCASA?
Sara Kominers, Esq., Human Trafficking Policy Attorney at the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA). I have been with MCASA since the inception of the Coordinated Action Against Sex Trafficking (CAAST) program in March 2017.
What efforts have been made in Maryland to respond to the problem of sex trafficking?
Maryland enacted major reforms to laws regarding human trafficking in 2007 and has made slow but steady legislative progress since then. MCASA was a leader in efforts to pass this bill in Annapolis and continues to work to improve the state’s response to victims of sex trafficking, including by establishing the CAAST program.
Can you tell us about MCASA’s Coordinated Action Against Sex Trafficking (CAAST) program?
MCASA coordinates a statewide initiative with rape crisis centers across Maryland, referred to as the Coordinated Action Against Sex Trafficking (CAAST), to build statewide capacity to provide services to sex trafficking survivors. In collaboration with this initiative, the Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI), a program of MCASA, provides legal services to survivors of sex trafficking.
Six rape crisis centers are part of the inaugural CAAST initiative. These programs have in-house human trafficking coordinators who assist survivors in accessing the services they need to help rebuild their lives. Coordinators ensure that their organizations’ protocols are appropriate for trafficking victims and that staff are trained in how to identify sex trafficking victims and the unique resources they may need.
Members of the CAAST network build collaborative relationships with health care facilities, law enforcement, policy-makers and other victim service organizations in their local communities to provide high quality trauma-informed victim-centered services to sex trafficking survivors. They participate in local human trafficking task forces as well as the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, connecting them with essential resources, trainings and colleagues statewide. CAAST members learn from and support each other as they share challenges and solutions to best serve the survivors with whom they work.
The following rape crisis centers are members of the CAAST regional network:
Family Crisis Resource Center, Inc.
Baltimore City and Baltimore County
Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties
Four All Seasons, Inc.
Heartly House, Inc.
Prince George’s County
Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center
Rape crisis centers across the state refer to members of the CAAST regional network, which is helping build statewide capacity to provide quality services to sex trafficking survivors.