DA Conley Remarks on Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign

Ask any police officer and they’ll tell you – making prostitution arrests is easy. We could make hundreds of those cases a week if we approached it on the supply side. But this isn’t a supply-side industry.

Sexual trafficking exists because of a demand. That demand is aided and abetted by websites and newspapers with advertisements for sexual services. As these posters make clear, those services are all too often coerced out of young teens, both girls and boys, who have been pressured, tricked, and even forced into a life that deprives them of choice and dignity.

We’ve heard a lot about human trafficking this year. I’ve filed a bill that would expand statewide our policy of safe harbor for Suffolk County’s sexually exploited teens. Attorney General Coakley has filed a bill that would define and provide penalties for that exploitation, as well as enhancing the punishments for buying sex. The Legislature deserves credit for the work they’ve done on this issue, and we’re confident that work will bring Massachusetts into the 21st century fight against human trafficking and its most visible facet – sexual trafficking.

Sexual trafficking isn’t a victimless crime. It’s not liberating or glamorous. It goes hand in hand with rape, violence, addiction, and trauma. Unfortunately, we live amid a culture that tolerates and even glamorizes the idea of sex for sale. We live amid a culture that turns its head from the uncomfortable, sometimes terrifying truth about the runaways and castaways bought and sold through Backpage.com or the Boston Phoenix.

That’s why changing the law isn’t enough. We have to change public perceptions as well. We need to make self-respect and respect for intimate partners something every adult will talk about when raising, teaching, or mentoring a youngster. That can be a tough topic for parents and caregivers to confront, but it can be done – and we’re here to help you do it.

We in Massachusetts can do better. There’s a better way to treat our children. There’s a better life for the boys and girls at the mercy of men who buy and sell them. And when it comes to acknowledging the issue and taking multi-disciplinary steps to tackle it, there’s no better time than now.