Sex trafficking is an act of using force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for commercial sex acts. However, if a person is under the age of 18 and has been exploited for a commercial sex act, force, fraud, or coercion are not required to constitute sex trafficking. While movement or transportation of the individual may occur as part of the crime, movement is not a requirement. A person can be trafficked within their own state, city, neighborhood, or home. Learn more about federal anti-trafficking laws from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The International Labor Organization estimates that human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits every year by victimizing millions of people in the U.S. and around the world. Maryland is no exception, and is uniquely situated to be a hot spot for human trafficking due to its population density, access to domestic, interstate, and international travel, and socioeconomic diversity.
Trafficking occurs in rural, suburban, and urban communities in every state across the country, and can be found in seemingly legitimate business settings as well as underground markets. Anyone can be a target, though traffickers tend to target marginalized and vulnerable individuals. Such vulnerabilities may include individuals who have experienced sexual violence and trauma in the past, homelessness, involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, those who have experienced substance abuse themselves or within their families, immigrants, LGBTQ youth, developmentally or intellectually delayed individuals, and many others. Some victims are hidden from plain sight, while others may interact with community members.
Despite growing awareness about this crime, human trafficking continues to go underreported due to a lack of understanding of the crime, its covert nature, lack of awareness of indicators, fear of retribution and threats from traffickers, lack of trust in law enforcement, and social stigmatization of commercial sex work and sex workers.
Maryland enacted major reforms to state human trafficking law in 2007. 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. Since 2007, MCASA has been on the frontlines, supporting continuing legislative efforts to meaningfully assist trafficking survivors and prevent trafficking in our state.
MCASA is also a proud member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, as well as many local task forces across the state.
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. CAAST is currently comprised of ten rape crisis centers whose staff service fourteen counties and Baltimore City. In collaboration with this initiative, the Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI), a program of MCASA, provides civil legal services and crime victim’s rights representation to sex trafficking survivors.
Survivors of sex trafficking often have very complex needs, requiring a multidisciplinary approach to address severe trauma, medical needs, safety concerns, housing, employment opportunities, immigration and other legal issues.
Find Standards of Service Provision for Sex Trafficking Survivors here. These standards are a working document that were developed as part of initial efforts to guide service providers in delivering survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and empowerment-based services to survivors of sex trafficking. We expect these standards to change and develop significantly as we gain more experience in this field and establish more evidence-based best practices.
Polaris and the National Human Trafficking Hotline website provide a wealth of information about human trafficking and the resources available for providers and survivors. Click to view their Comprehensive Human Trafficking Assessment.
For more information on child sex trafficking in Maryland, read the Maryland Safe Harbor Workgroup’s 2018 Final Report.