Sex Trafficking and “Slavery” in Connecticut Examined
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Many people wouldn't think of Connecticut as a place plagued by human trafficking for sexual exploitation or slave-like labor. But the major north-south artery I-95 runs through the state, leaving it far from isolated.
According to Tammy Sneed of the state's Department of Children and Families, cases of underage children caught up in the sex trade are on the rise, as is general public awareness of what is often dismissed as "the world's oldest profession."
"But I also believe it's increasing, particularly with the Internet," Sneed said. "So, a lot of our young people are recruited, and then also exploited; you know, it's coordinated via the Internet."
Less prevalent, but experts say still a problem, is the situation of immigrants forced into virtual slavery as domestic workers or laborers. In some cases, their documentation is taken and held by their exploiters, trapping them through fear of deportation.
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut is bringing experts and officials together on Saturday to explore the hidden problem of human trafficking. The group's Judy Dolphin noted that prostitution is only part of it: workers in other fields can be victims.
She said this can occur "in possibly domestic situations, where people are hiring someone to work in their home, either as a nanny or domestic help; in the landscaping industry sometimes, with people who kind of are stuck."
Tammy Sneed said her department stepped up its efforts to help underage victims of the sex trade in 2008 and has seen its workload burgeon since.
"We were averaging about 30 reports a year and this year, we're already at about 50, so we'll probably double for this year," she said. "And I think that directly correlates with all the training and public awareness."
Judy Dolphin said an FBI representative will be involved in Saturday's conference as well.
"We want to know not only what law enforcement can do, but are they aware of what they can and should do," she declared.
The panel discussion, open to the public, starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology in New Haven.