Human sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers exploit another person through the use of force, fraud or coercion to engage in commercial sex acts. However, if the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18, 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. Learn more about federal anti-trafficking laws from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
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.
Trafficking occurs in rural, suburban and urban communities in every state across the U.S. and can be found in 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 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, and stigma surrounding commercial sex.
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 civil legal services to sex trafficking survivors.
Maryland enacted major reforms to laws regarding human trafficking 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. The state law can be found at Criminal Law 11-303.
MCASA is also a proud member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force.
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 Human 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.
For more information, read the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force’s 2015 Update to Combating Human Trafficking in Maryland: Recommendations for a Statewide Approach.