By Michael Kryzanek for GateHouse Media on October 19, 2013—
“Sister Ellen Powers of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Brighton, who counsels young women caught in the sex trade here in Massachusetts, recently led a discussion at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Whitman about how the trafficking of young women for prostitution has mushroomed into a hugely profitable criminal activity.
The sex trade is now a $9.5 billion worldwide criminal enterprise second only to international drug smuggling and distribution. It’s estimated that over 700,000 persons are trafficked globally each year, with 17,000 persons brought here into the United States for prostitution.
Although most of the notorious sex trade industry is centered in Asia, right here in Massachusetts, Ryan Duntin, 31, of Randolph was indicted earlier this month on multiple charges related to human trafficking.
Many of the young women who end up as prostitutes are runaways or stuck in dire circumstances. Most are poor, desperate and fall victim to the money and the grand promises of a phony modeling or acting career by the pimps. Quickly, those dreams are shattered as they end up sex slaves – threatened, intimidated and beaten into submission by their pimps. They fear for their lives and see little chance of escaping and starting life anew.
There are some positive signs that human trafficking in our state is being addressed. After laying claim as one of only three states that had no public policy to deal with the victims of the sex trade, in 2011 the Legislature passed and Governor Deval Patrick signed one of the most comprehensive laws in the country to combat human trafficking.
Within a year, our state was viewed as the most improved in responding to the sex trade. With this law on the books, Attorney General Martha Coakley and local police began to dismantle networks of traffickers.
As part of the evening program at Holy Ghost, Sister Ellen showed a short movie about the sex trade in Vietnam. A young girl, barely 10, was separated from her mother and held in captivity by a criminal gang that catered to Asian men with an affinity for young females. After a few minutes, it was difficult to watch the movie and see this innocent child with little hope of escaping enslavement.
Sister Ellen was quick to remind us that the sex trade would be severely compromised if the men who seek out prostitutes were arrested in the same manner as the young women. In the current environment of prostitution here and elsewhere in this country, the men are often protected from prosecution or public embarrassment, while the young women are arrested and eventually end up back under the control of their pimps. It’s a vicious cycle with few opportunities for the young women to change their lives.”
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