By Attorney General Maura Healey | January 30, 2020
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in our country and it’s happening right here in our own communities. This isn’t a victimless crime – it has an impact on real people who are exposed to trauma and abuse.
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month and a time to reflect on the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do. One thing has become clear — the business community can and must play a significant role to end this exploitation of some of our most vulnerable people.
Over the past several years, we’ve developed expertise in investigating and prosecuting human trafficking and forged partnerships to find creative ways to address this issue.
Earlier this month, my office gathered law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates and service providers for the first Human Trafficking Summit, to share best practices and discuss new approaches to this work.
This legislative session, we partnered with Sen. Mark Montigny to file a bill that creates a regulatory structure for bodyworks practices to prevent criminals from using these currently unregulated businesses as fronts for human trafficking.
To help combat labor trafficking, we joined with the Boston University School of Law and the BU Spark! Initiative to launch a new web-based app to help identify potential labor trafficking cases and connect victims to resources.
And, the business community has already begun stepping up.
We created the Employers Against Sex Trafficking (EAST) Initiative with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, in partnership with the Alliance for Business Leadership, Massachusetts Business Roundtable, and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Through that initiative, there’s been increased engagement by the business community to adopt zero-tolerance policies for sex buying in their workplaces and reduce the demand for the purchase of illegal sex.
This past year, the Massachusetts Bar Association featured EAST in a program titled “Implications of Sex Trafficking in the Workplace,” aimed at labor and employment attorneys.
EAST also collaborated with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) toupdate training materials for workers regarding the harms of sex buying, which have been implemented in MCAD’s standard workplace and sexual harassment training. I encourage businesses to use this resource in the new year.
But despite these efforts, and increased awareness around this issue, we need to do more.
Data shows that many sex buyers are our employees and co-workers and the products and services of our institutions are being used to facilitate illegal sex trafficking.
According to research, sex buyers often look to buy sex during business hours or using company resources including hotels, vehicles, and wi-fi.
In the Boston area, the peak time for online searching to purchase sex is 2 p.m.– the middle of the work day – and many buyers have said they buy illegal sex while traveling for business.
Every month, 20,000 ads for commercial sex are posted online in Boston.There are over 9,000 searches for commercial sex every day in our city.
I encourage more businesses to join our collaborative efforts to end this crime and protect victims and survivors. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy. Implement workplace trainings. Make clear value statements to your employees and colleagues.
If we eliminate demand, there can be no trafficking. Every step employers and employees take brings us closer to eliminating this exploitation. That’s a goal we can all agree on for 2020.
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